Editor’s Note: This story is part of a month-long series that highlights 31 ideas included in the “Mansfield Rising” plan. The 67-page document was created by 15 local leaders after attending the South by Southwest Conference last March in Austin, Texas.

Idea 29: Create a downtown Neighborhood Watch program 

It’s been said that downtown Mansfield is not a safe place. Some people want an increased presence of police officers to make people feel safer; another way is to create a Neighborhood Watch program.

Neighborhood Watches are forming in many communities across the country, including Richland County. Although downtown Mansfield is already quite safe, an added layer of awareness will increase the public perception of safety as well. 

A Neighborhood Watch volunteer program is a group of people living and working in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer. They work with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve the quality of life.

Neighborhood Watch groups have regular meetings to plan how to accomplish goals and assign responsibilities to group members. The volunteer residents understand that by keeping their neighborhood safe, they can create a community where people want to live, work and play.

The same could be done for the Central Business District. By encouraging residents and business owners to work together, they can identify and report suspicious activity in their neighborhood. The members focus on observation and awareness as a means of preventing crime or changing the perception of crime in the area. They employ strategies that range from promoting social interaction and watching out for each other to active patrols by citizens.

An additional suggestion would be to partner with official people walking around downtown during business hours and in the evenings when there are events. A low-cost solution would be to hire a service.

A better solution would be to hire a person dedicated to help visitors with wayfinding, act as “eyes on the ground,” get to know merchants and the regulars who gather in public areas, and generally serve as safety ambassadors for downtown. They could wear a branded shirt, carry a walkie-talkie and small first-aid kit.

Join us for a live discussion of the “Ideas of March” series and the “Mansfield Rising” plan on Thursday, April 4. 

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Cost: This action item would cost little to no money but would need the partnership of the Mansfield Police Department. A Neighborhood Watch group would utilize staff time from Mansfield Police Department. A Safety Ambassador program could cost around $25,000 annually. 

Partners: City of Mansfield, City of Mansfield Police Department, Downtown Mansfield, Inc., Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, Central Business District business owners and residents.

Timeline: It would take about three months to establish a Downtown Neighborhood Watch group.

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