To help cope with limited manpower and resources, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey is asking volunteer leaders to improve on something that's already hard to do.
Carey wants a 20 percent increase in membership for Neighborhood and Business Watch groups next year. Police rely on the groups to help discourage or prevent crime by strengthening community bonds and being more alert to report suspicious activity.
Watch groups coordinator Dennis Moore said more than 1,000 people already participate, but recruiting members is difficult -- partly because of a perception that being a volunteer requires a lot of time and effort.
"(The 20 percent) is possible, but it will take a lot of effort on the citizens' part who want to be involved, want to be aware how to formulate and get their neighborhood watch groups together," he said. "You're only required to have two meetings a year. You don't have to be a vigilante and go on patrol."
Lori Torrini is the police crime prevention officer. She and Moore agree that many people are reluctant to join a group out of fear of retaliation by someone connected with a crime suspect.
"I would say don't wait until a crime occurs in your neighborhood," Torrini said. "Prevent that crime from happening in the first place by getting proactive, educating yourself, coming together and forming a neighborhood watch."
Carey said previously that groups are necessary in a city that has fewer officers than other cities of similar size. He wants to hire more officers but has yet to make an official request to the City Council.
The groups offer 38 free classes and training to promote safety and security. Among them: how to be an effective witness and how to avoid becoming a victim. You can learn more about groups by visiting http://www.springsgov.com/SectionIndex.aspx?SectionID=67
An informational meeting for prospective members is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Sand Creek police substation near the intersection of Academy and Fountain boulevards.