In a quiet Belton neighborhood almost every home on the block has one thing in common, a sign posted outside letting everyone know they are teaming up with police to fight crime.
They’re doing it through a Community Watch Program called E-Watch. It uses technology to connect police with the community using text messages and emails.
Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis said it is basically a virtual neighborhood watch program.
“You remember the old neighborhood watch, which is still in existence, but it’s a virtual neighborhood watch where we partner with the community and provide information about what crimes are occurring in the neighborhoods and then ask them to report suspicious behaviors or activities to us,” Ellis said.
The program launched in the fall of 2013 and now with 1,500 people involved police hope to see the program grow.
“It’s been outstanding. We recognize we can’t do it alone and we have to have the community’s help. So this is just one of the partnerships that we find that we could put information out on E-Watch and sometimes within 10 minutes we will have some investigative leads because of our community members providing information back to us,” Ellis said.
Belton E-Watch resident, Peggy Williams, said as times have changed, neighbors don’t typically sit out on the front porch and get to know each other anymore and that’s why outreach programs like these are important.
“You don’t talk to your neighbor or anything and we don’t because everyone is working. We are probably one of the few retired people in this area,” Peggy Williams said.
Users get emails and texts about crime alerts, monthly reports, surveys and community service messages.
“I like hearing from the city and knowing where not to go in case it’s dangerous. As we are getting notified we can be on the outlook for someone dangerous in the neighborhood,” Peggy Williams said.
This cyber neighborhood was intended for those who are too busy to attend meetings, but still want to be included.
“If we had a threat to the neighborhood or if a crime spree is going on, we use that communication tool to get the information out to the community as quickly as possible,” Ellis said.
Both Peggy and her husband Bill said it gives them peace of mind.
“It’s just a comfort for us to know that the police are actually coming by and checking on us from time to time. And they do, sometimes two to three times a day,” Bill Williams said.
He said having E-Watch signs across the block show criminals it’s the wrong place to be.
“You’ve got your security system sign on your door as a deterrent to let people be aware that it is not a safe place to break into, the same goes for the E-Watch sign, they know that this place is vigilant about that,” Bill Williams said.
The program splits Belton into three districts so crime reports are specific to your neighborhood.
Residents living north of 13th Avenue (the railroad tracks)
Residents living south of 13th Avenue (railroad tracks), and north of U.S. Highway 190.
Residents living south of US Highway 190 and east of Interstate 35.
You can sign your home or business up for the e-watch program online at: