BY LINDSAY MYERS — On Wednesday May 4, the Police and Public Safety Citizens’ Advisory Committee met for the third time. The committee discussed how to foster a sense of community amongst neighbors through social events and safety programs like Neighborhood Watch.

The leader of the Ward 2 Neighborhood Watch, Vice Chairwoman Emily Strab, emphasized that at the heart of every block watch is a community of people who look out for one another. “The Neighborhood Watch is more than just what’s happening in the community; it’s someone needs help with the trash barrels so we make sure the trash gets picked up. It’s about knowing your neighbor. Our community is our responsibility. It’s not necessarily about calling the police or calling code enforcement for every little thing,” said Strab.

Strab said the way to create this dynamic is to keep Neighborhood Watch meetings primarily social events. To support this idea, members of the Ward 2 Neighborhood Watch meet at a different neighbor’s house each month and bring snacks to share. They address community issues, but also take time to socialize. “Who wouldn’t want to walk down the street and eat snacks at your neighbors’? If you keep it all business it is going to get old really fast,” said Strab.

Councilmember Paula Perry (Ward 4) expressed concern about the hesitation of minority communities to participate in neighborhood programs. In response, committee member Irma Echeverria said, “I think that population needs to be targeted a little differently. You have to remember that most of them don’t read or write in their own language.”

Regardless of whether neighbors speak the same language, Chairman Tom Tucker said it does not “absolve us of our responsibility to knock on the door and say, ‘Hey we’re having this party, and we would love for you to join us.’”

Councilmen Robert Croslin, agreed. “Everybody can read an act of kindness,” he said.

Echeverria suggested that going door-to-door with people who speak multiple languages would help minorities feel more welcome. “A lot of people say, ‘Do the bilingual forms.’ I think that’s a good idea; it shows we are trying and making an effort, but it can’t stop there,” she said.

With respect to establishing more Neighborhood Watch programs throughout the wards, the committee said it would work to provide interested citizens with the appropriate resources. “Hyattsville police and the city staff are more than happy to help people. You’re not on your own if you want to start a Neighborhood Watch,” said Strab. In the meantime, the committee recommended using the summer months to organize a block party.

“That’s really the start of a block watch,” said Councilmen Croslin. “‘Cause once you know your neighbors, and your neighbors know you, you look out for each other. “

The Police and Public Safety Advisory Committee meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. See the city website for locations.