Chad Clark

Guest columnist

One of the most frequent questions I get from the public is how to start a neighborhood watch program.

Forming a watch program in your neighborhood is a proven way to reduce crime as your neighbors will be looking out for one another and will know when to get police assistance. We have groups as small as 10 members all the way up to 50. Prior to the pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office conducted regular community meetings. Now we are seeing groups adjusting and having these meetings online.

If your community plans a meeting, please let us know. I would be happy to join and give some common-sense crime prevention tips.

You know your neighborhood much better than a deputy driving through, but a common question at community meetings is, “How can we get more deputies in our neighborhood?” Here are some suggestions:

n Call in suspicious activity, such as the same vehicle driving through the area that you have never seen before.

n People knocking on doors who aren’t your neighbors and asking questions that make you suspicious.

n Be alert and report anything not in progress to your watch group to compare notes. You and your neighbors become our eyes and ears

There are many unreported crimes throughout the county, as I hear it consistently. Please report crimes and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Many times at community meetings, I let the group know specific crime statistics in their neighborhood, and they are often very shocked at the number of thefts, burglaries and vehicle prowls reported. I usually get many raised hands with people saying they had things stolen or someone entered their tool shed.

But those crimes were not reported, so the data is not documented. As with law enforcement agencies, our resources are stretched thin. We prioritize where need is highest. A neighborhood without any reported crime will get less attention than one that does show crime.

Being aware of your surroundings is also a very important safety issue, both at home and away from home. When you go to your vehicle after coming out of a store, be mindful of who is around.

Your car should be locked, and consider only unlocking your driver’s door to prevent someone coming into your car from the passenger side at the same time as you. This is a very scary scenario, but it does happen.

Cars are still getting broken into at local parking areas for trails. Many times, items of value are visible through windows, which end up smashed so the items can be taken. Main targets seem to be larger purses and backpacks. Credit cards are taken to local stores and used minutes after the crime.

In September, we had 43 vehicle prowls reported for the unincorporated county. With only 30 days in September, that is more than one a day and is way too much.

Keep your valuables at home, and always keep your vehicle doors locked and windows rolled up.

— Chad Clark is undersheriff of the Skagit County Sheriff's Office. Send questions to

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