Neighborhood Vigilance: A Strong and Effective Crime Deterrent

After one year of trying to find ways and means to combat surging crimes in their neighborhood, a small village group have succeeded in reducing the incidence of crime in their community without the support of the police and other local government units.
This is the third issue of a series of news articles about a small village association that struggled to fight crime in their neighborhood in order to keep their homes, families and loved ones safe from criminal elements. Digital Journal published the first issue last October 27, 2008 and the second issue on December 5, 2008.

A little known strip located within Sikatuna Village, a middle-class community in the heart of Quezon City, Philippines, is a short street known as Madasalin. Along this street are homeowners numbering about 50 households. Families that originally settled down here many years ago were former employees of the Central Bank of the Philippines. Some of them, already in their late 80s are still living here with their children and grandchildren.

The village is a few minutes drive from the capital city’s famous landmarks including the Quezon City civic center, Quezon Memorial Circle, University of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center for Asia, Ateneo de Manila University and Araneta Center, among others.

Kapisanan Ng Madasalin, the organization that oversees the peace and security concerns of the residents was organized last February 2008. For almost a year, the association has struggled to find ways and means to solidify its membership. The leaders believe that the organization cannot succeed in its primary goal of attaining zero crime rates in the neighborhood if the members will not cooperate in the implementation of projects particularly those affecting peace and security of the neighborhood.

Cognizant of the need to promote camaraderie and cooperation among members-residents, the association has created a neighborhood website (E-Group) to keep members informed of the activities, plans and programs related to the peace and security of the neighborhood. Since its inception last year, the website has attracted more than half of the resident-members. They have since been very active in interacting with the rest of the membership by posting their own suggestions and recommendations to the leaders of the organization.

The website has since developed into an effective forum for the members. Any member can log in to the website and with just a Click; they will know what is going on in the community. Latest news about crime incidence along the street is immediately posted in the website for members to know and take precautions. The website also provides the members with the necessary information related to the activities of the association including the list of members with their house numbers, mobile phones and landlines, email addresses and even their birthdays and anniversaries. The website likewise provides members with contact numbers of the Barangay Office (local government office), nearest police and fire stations, nearest hospitals and other contact numbers that are useful to the residents.

In the short span of one year, the neighborhood association has made tremendous progress. In its first annual report, which will be circulated to members shortly, the officers have listed the following accomplishments:

1. Creation and maintenance of the neighborhood website

2. Successfully launched ‘Get to know you’ campaign to promote fellowship
among members by holding regular street parties where resident-families are
introduced to each other as neighbors.

3. Got cooperation from members to contribute their time and resources to the association
and pay their monthly dues on time.

4. Installed guard outpost on both ends of the street including construction of steel gates

5. Hired the services of a private security agency to secure the residents on a 24- hour
tour of duty.

6. Issued car stickers to all residents

7. Got cooperation and support from the Barangay Chair and Council for a joint effort
in providing the residents with additional manpower to augment the current private
security force.

As in any organization, there will always be some members who will try to oppose or at times, even fail to appreciate its good intentions. But in the case of this neighborhood group, almost every resident had given his full cooperation and support to the association.

As a result of this modest accomplishment, the neighborhood association has achieved its primary goal of reducing the crime rate in the neighborhood to almost zero during the past three months in contrast with the number of crimes committed in the area before the residents have organized themselves into a neighborhood association.

For having achieved an almost zero crime rate in the neighborhood, some neighborhood organizations within the village, are now trying to copy or duplicate ‘secret formula’ of the association for possible adoption in their own communities.

It is indeed heart-warming that other neighborhood groups have recognized the achievements of this pioneering endeavor by concerned members of the community. And being looked up to as a model for others is indeed an honor and a remarkable achievement for this able and vigilant organization.

Atty. Narciso Tadeo, the Chairman of the neighborhood association, in an interview with this writer, said: ‘I can only attribute the success of our association to the total and unconditional support from its members. This kind of support would not have been possible if the entire membership did not know each other well’. The almost family life-like-closeness that we have among residents was, I believe is the key to our success, Atty. Tadeo added.

Mr. Renato (Boy Ampil) the association’s co-chairman, said: ‘the closeness and camaraderie among members was actually the result of the regular membership meetings and street parties where neighbors are given the opportunity to interact with each other’ to me this is one contributory factor to our success’. Mr. Ampil also acknowledged the services of the association’s chief security officer, Arnold Gonzales, for his able stewardship of the security personnel assigned to secure the neighborhood.

Ms. Chiqui Nuguid, the treasurer of the association, together with her co-treasurer, Ms. Bheeng Lee said, ‘we are surprised by the support and cooperation from our members. Some of them would even voluntary bring their membership dues to my house without being reminded. I think most of them are satisfied with the accomplishments of our association’. ‘Mr. Tom Viray and Justice Emilio Gancayco both members of our board of advisers have been very generous to our association by providing us with extra funds for our security bills, Ms. Nuguid added.

The association’s website has been very effective in disseminating information to the residents of the neighborhood. Ms. Ammi Armas, Secretary of the association together with her co-secretary Ms. Rossete de Leos, are also the moderators of the website and they have been praised by the members for their valuable services. Members who do not have access to the internet get their messages from Juancho Alcantara, the association’s neighborhood coordinator.

When asked about the involvement of the Barangay in the activities of the association, Atty. Tadeo said that Barangay Chair Annabelle Curatcho and the council are now helping the association by providing additional security personnel to augment the private security force hired by the association. “I am very happy about the support and assistance being extended by Ms. Curatcho and the council in helping us achieved our goal for a crime-free community’, Atty. Tadeo added.

In any place most especially in developing countries, crime prevention is a primary concern of local government units. In places where the police and local authorities become helpless because of the lack of manpower, equipment and funds, the citizens in small communities can still feel safe in their homes and neighborhood by simply doing what this neighborhood group in the Philippines has accomplished to keep their homes and families safe.