Block watch

Connie Squires started her own block watch over the past year and crime and vandalism in the neighborhood has gone down to zero and people in the neighborhood are more friendly. Squires is organizing their second annual block party November 12 and expects over 100 neighbors. Oct 27, 2011. Darryl Webb/AFN

Darryl Webb

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Connie Squires grew up at a time and place where people waved.

"My father was one who waved," Squires said. "It didn't matter who was oncoming or who was out front of the house, he waved."

Squires first visited Phoenix in 2002 and fell in love. It was nice, open, and she could play senior softball year-round.

"When I moved here, to this house, I waved at people," Squires said. "Rarely did I get anyone ever to wave back. It seemed like people didn't know each other, or they just weren't very warm."

In 2009, Squires attended a birthday party for a woman in her neighborhood and was told she had just the right personality to start a block watch group. It wasn't something she had thought of before but, after a few months of taking it into consideration, she got to work.

"It was a lot of leg work, knocking on doors, introducing myself, and asking if they would be interested in creating an official Mesquite Canyon Block Watch," Squires said. "Most people said, ‘I think that would be a great idea, but I'm just so busy.'"

Knowing she at least had some interest, Squires found six households willing to help and she contacted the Phoenix Block Watch Advisory Board and the Phoenix Police Department, and found sources willing to take her step by step through the process. In May of 2010, the Mesquite Canyon Block Watch was officially formed and a block party was planned for November.

"I created some fliers and began passing them out," Squires said. "I hung a tri-fold flier on everyone's front door. I was sincere. I said, ‘My name is Connie and I'm willing to get this block watch off the ground so we can celebrate G.A.I.N. (Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods).'"

In the end, Squires had about 75 people attend, representing a portion of the 96 homes included in the block watch. It may seem like a small step to get people to attend a party, but in the year since Squires says she has seen crime reduce to nothing.

"Truth be told, the crime rate was creeping up," Squires said. "Vandalism had been inching up. Three times the commons area at the bottom of our hill had been vandalized and the city had to replace benches. You could go to any of my board members and ask them if it's acceptable for a little vandalism to occur in your neighborhood. You'd get the same answer you'll get from me, and that is it is unacceptable for it to happen here. We are too proud of our clean, beautiful neighborhood in which to live.

"From whatever the crime rate was it has visibly decreased to what I think is practically zero. I think that is the proof in the pudding. That's how we want it. Not only do we want it free of crime, but we want a place where people are friendly and helpful to each other."

Squires has seen that as well. People are getting to know their neighbors and providing meals or rides when they know someone is in need. Squires smiles as she looks at her own table and a small pink card sitting, ready to be delivered.

"Would I prior to the block watch have been sending this congratulatory card to the family upon the arrival of their little one?" Squires asked. "No. I wouldn't have known about it. I think that kind of thing is really special. We like to take care of each other."

This year, Squires is extending her block watch party to 123 homes. She's already been able to get donations from Desert Foothills United Methodist Church, ACE Hardware, and Target is offering raffle and door prizes. Last year, she also received support from Safeway and Rossmar and Graham Homeowners Association.

For any others considering starting a block watch of their own, Squires recommends getting ready for many hard-worked volunteer hours and getting to know the Phoenix Police Department, as well as the block watch advisory board.

"I know this may not be possible for every neighborhood in the world's largest cul-de-sac, but it's nice to know we have such strong support from business men and women, and the Phoenix Police Department."

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