Hilton Head Island crime watch goes street-level

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Hilton Head Island crime watch goes street-level

By ALLISON STICE
astice@islandpacket.com
Published Monday, February 18, 2013   |  625 Words  |  

Whether it's because of her dog-walking business or years of living in the same neighborhood, Gayle Trenary of North Forest Beach notices when things are different.

A door left open. Trespassers. Someone inside a home that is supposed to be empty.

"I've seen strange things, and I've been in situations where I've talked to police," Trenary said.

She has long helped keep an eye on her neighborhood by introducing herself to new people or by exchanging contact information when residents go on vacation. These days, Trenary's "friendly neighborhood courtesy" has become a bit more formalized with the start of a Forest Beach crime watch.

Organized last year for residents of North and South Forest Beach, the program has since split up into smaller groups. Block captains, such as Trenary and her husband, Rick, are now assigned to keep an eye on their streets. The couple kicked off the watch for Park Road by inviting neighbors to enjoy a Lowcountry boil and meet at a gathering in December.

In an area with a mix of long-term residents, renters and snowbirds, the crime watch will rely on people getting to know each other, according to Eleanor Lightsey O'Key of the Forest Beach Owners Association board.

"We're all becoming more educated and more aware of our surroundings," O'Key said. "On my street, I know when someone is going out of town, when someone coming to visit, or what cars aren't usually there."

At larger meetings for both North and South Forest Beach homeowners, representatives of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and Palmetto Electric have explained to residents how quick fixes, such as landscaping changes, or more complex ones, such as surveillance cameras, can make their homes more secure.

The association has mailed flyers to every home as a reminder of the watch's simple guiding principle: If you see something, say something. The flyer provides the Sheriff's Office non-emergency number and asks people to report suspicious activity.

O'Key said she will track whether the new watch helps drive down crime rates by sharing Sheriff's Office statistics with the group. The Sheriff's Office groups Forest Beach in a larger area when reporting stats, so O'Key will be going through reports street by street for a more accurate measure.

New signs in the neighborhood also are part of the effort. According to Town of Hilton Head Island traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker, road signs that warn visitors of dead ends should be installed soon by the S.C. Department of Transportation.

O'Key said crime-watch signs will be ordered, as well. However, at the watch's kick-off meeting in October, Staff Sgt. Mike Jennings of the Sheriff's Office told the group that neighborhood crime-watch signs are so common they are no longer effective at deterring criminals.

Old signs from previous incarnations of a Forest Beach neighborhood watch can still be found on some roads. Instead of signs, Jennings told watch members that the best way to keep the new group going is by making neighborhood meetings more of a party, with food, drinks and socializing.

Rick Trenary agrees and said he plans to host more gatherings.

"The more interaction you have with your neighbors, the better off your neighborhood is going to be," he said. "It's common sense."

Related content

  1. South Forest Beach Peeping Tom arrested, Feb. 14, 2013
  2. Alarmed at rising crime, Forest Beach starts neighborhood watch, Oct. 27, 2012