Rules when starting a neighborhood crime watch

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - This Plaza Midwood resident has been living in the area for more than four years.

She had never heard of any type of serious crime committed in her neighborhood.

"I think the most that we have are car break-ins on occasion but other than that I feel very safe."

A community watch group started in Plaza, is what she says encourages neighbors to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

"Being proactive about crime is always a good idea."

But working with police to make sure the neighborhood is safe and getting involved or trying to be the police are two different things says Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Craig Allen.

"We don't want you to take the law into your own hands. We want you to be armed with cell phones and armed with knowledge," said Allen.

He was concerned with the perception of crime watches after an incident in Florida last year involving the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by local neighborhood watch participant, George Zimmerman.

"Just be a good witness from a distance," said Allen.

Reporter: Even if someone else might be in danger, another person?

"Yes because we don't want two victims," said Allen.

While the Zimmerman case might be an example of the dangers of an overzealous neighborhood watch program, being an active witness is effective says Allen.

"It tells them hey we are organized and we are going to be watching you."

Just as long as you let the police do their job and come in when there's something actually happening.

"Call 911 let the police come out and take action," said Allen.

"Call because you never know what you're getting into."

To set up a neighborhood crime watch people in the neighborhood have to go through the police.

Then an officer will come out, talk crime prevention tips and talk about the advantages of getting involved and getting your community organized.

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