A neighborhood watch group praised for its use of online resources to build community and fight crime has shut down, its leader citing a lack of public participation.
Mike D’Arcy, co-founder of the Kingston Neighborhood Watch, said that he was shutting down the group effective immediately. By Tuesday, Aug. 9,
KNW’s website, blog and Facebook page — center of the group’s online organizing efforts — had been deleted. A posting on D’Arcy’s personal Facebook page read, “RIP KNW. It’s time.”
D’Arcy said that he ended the group out of frustration over dwindling participation, including a recent neighborhood walk which drew just five people.
“The neighborhood watch did a lot of really good in the City of Kingston,” said D’Arcy, a real estate broker and chef who lives in Uptown Kingston. “But at this point, given the lack of involvement lately, it seems like we need to take a step back and think about what we are doing.”
D’Arcy founded the watch group in February 2010 after a neighbor was assaulted and robbed on St. James Street. That same month, Charles “C.J.” King Jr. was shot and killed on Cedar Street in a gang hit. The high-profile murder helped spur interest in the new watch group, which kicked off with well-attended meetings at the city library. The group also established a strong online presence with a popular Facebook page and introduced to town seeclickfix.com, a citizen participation website. The group’s emphasis on technology, according to Kingston Police Chief Gerald Keller, helped spur the department to boost its own online presence by introducing crimereports.com, a website which allows users to view detailed maps of where crimes are occurring in the city.
“Mike relied a lot on the computer, it was a new idea and I think it beat out other ways of trying to coordinate these types of groups,” said Keller. “They were on the right track.”
On the streets, meanwhile, the neighborhood watch tried to organize a system of ward and block “stewards” to serve as a liaison between area residents and police. The group distributed detailed forms for watch members to report suspicious activity and passed them along to police. Members of the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team credited the group with generating leads used in an August 2010 drug sweep which netted 17 suspects. The Kingston Neighborhood Watch also organized search parties for Zach Green, a Saugerties man who vanished from Uptown Kingston in January. Green’s body was eventually discovered in the Esopus Creek this summer.
At one point, D’Arcy said, the group had signed up 178 members and established stewards in most of the city’s nine wards. But, he said, participation had dropped off to the point that it no longer made sense to try to organize neighborhood walks or special events. D’Arcy added that the group’s original vision of the neighborhood watch as a vehicle for fostering a stronger sense of community and connections within and among neighborhoods had never really gelled.
“We wanted to see the community get closer, tighter, more coming together,” said D’Arcy. “That was one goal we haven’t been able to reach.”
D’Arcy said that the Kingston Neighborhood Watch would maintain its corporate status as a not-for-profit group and held out the possibility of reviving the idea someday.
“Maybe it just needs to be reworked, reorganized and done in a different way,” said D’Arcy.