A newly formed group of Riverton residents is looking for ways to cut down on local crime by fostering stronger community relationships.
The initiative began after a recent shooting occurred in the alley behind Greg Tallabas’ home on East Jackson Avenue – in an area he describes as “the war zone.”
Tallabas approached the Riverton City Council last month to talk about the incident, as well as other crimes that regularly take place in his neighborhood.
“Our quality of life has declined quite a bit,” he said. “It’s become uncomfortable in the last year and a half.”
In an attempt to curb the criminal activity, Tallabas said his neighbors have started installing motion detector lights in the area, and they are thinking about posting some signs – but they want to do more.
“We’d like to try to help … in the right way,” Tallabas said. “We would like to participate and to make our neighborhood safer, instead of just letting it go and get worse. We’d like to make it better.”
The city has talked about starting a local Neighborhood Watch chapter in the past, Mayor Richard Gard said during last month’s meeting, but the idea has “never materialized.”
“Maybe this is the spot to start,” he suggested. “We would be supportive. … You can use our facilities to set up your meetings and invite people to come.”
By this week, Tallabas had done just that: During Tuesday’s city council meeting, he invited community members to join him 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at Riverton City Hall, 816 N. Federal Blvd., to discuss strategies for crime prevention locally.
‘Be more social’
One of the strategies Tallabas would like to focus on envisions neighbors who are “more social with each other.”
“If (people) see us as a community, together, doing projects and visiting each other … at least they’ll take notice that we care about our neighborhoods,” he said. “If we can show unity in a positive way, that (criminal) behavior is just not welcome, maybe we can make some good progress.”
He wants that progress to be “positive” in nature – not “vigilante” like some of the groups he’s seen formed in other communities.
“When you go to different cities and you see their (neighborhood) program … it kind of has a rough edge to it,” Tallabas said. “I don’t want to do that, because it causes more division. … My thought from the very beginning was us getting to know each other as a community.”
When neighbors communicate regularly, they are more likely to notice when something is amiss on the street, Tallabas pointed out.
For example, if his neighbors tell him they are going out of town, he can offer to keep an eye on their property and intervene, perhaps by calling the police, if someone pulls up and starts peeking in the windows.
“Camaraderie amongst neighbors … tends to make criminals stay away from that neighborhood,” Tallabas said. “If we put out motion lights, and if we put signs out, and if we’re out there saying hello to each other in the evening, (it) speaks volumes. … You can’t roll into a community that is happy and think that you’re going to be able to just do whatever you want.”
He hopes to hear other crime prevention ideas at next week’s meeting, including suggestions for a group logo.
“(Let’s) come to a conclusion ourselves, as a community,” he said. “It’s too easy to point fingers. Do what takes effort and make a difference.”
For more information call Tallabas at 463-2978.