Standing watch

There was a time on the concessions and side roads in this county that a strange vehicle would never go unnoticed. Much has changed.

Today, we hazard to guess most people leave for work early in the morning and return late in the evening. Most farmers now have off-farm jobs, leaving the sentry post vacant during the day. No one appears to be watching out for homeowners in that regard.

That certainly was the feeling of a nice woman who phoned last week wondering if we could talk up the need for a Neighbourhood Watch program. A recent spate of break-ins has people a little more than concerned; first for thievery and next for foiling a crime in progress.

To be fair, the rural or small-town feel most of us grew up with has changed, too. A nosy neighbour could always be depended on to watch the comings and goings of kids and strangers. There surely was some annoyance with that at times, but it did make for a safer neighbourhood and everyone had a better handle on what happened when mama and papa were away.

Canadians have strayed from that over-familiarity in recent years. With new people in our community have come changing attitudes about privacy and being close with people. Some neighbours simply like doing their own thing and do not want to be bothered getting to know people next door. Someone showing too much interest could end up being avoided or, in the poorest of cases, told to mind their own business.

Since we know so little about one another there may be some hesitation to challenge someone loitering or to make inquiries about a strange vehicle parked in the driveway. Rather than “Thanks,” or a “Geez, I’m glad you looked in on our place,” well meaning neighbours could be given a dressing down for being too inquisitive.

Perhaps offering that viewpoint might persuade people to be a little more thankful for a neighbour asking a question of visitors, rather than giving the neighbour a browbeating.

In an interview published in this week’s paper, OPP Inspector Scott Smith speaks about the increase in break and enters in the county.

With a fairly trim budget, there are not enough resources to patrol roads ad nauseum so it is up to residents to be wary for one another. We each have a responsibility to keep things tidy and locked up from potential thieves. While locks will not deter the most eager of criminals, it does help for insurance purposes and maybe slows things enough for someone to see what is happening on a property.

An informal Neighbourhood Watch could be as simple as keeping an eye out for a suspicious vehicle, or perhaps a stranger being just a little too interested in a property. Sometimes it could be a gut feeling that something is amiss. Take a few minutes and jot down a licence plate number or description of what took place.

We owe it to ourselves and neighbours to be a little more curious and attentive to what goes on near our homes – and theirs.