The La Junta Police Department is backing the La Junta Neighborhood Watch Program.

On Tuesday evening, 12 La Junta Police Officers, all but two of the force, marched into the Council Chamber to greet the group gathered to study the Neighborhood Watch Program. The number of thefts from homes has been on the rise all over the area. The suspicion is we are dealing with a group from another city, seeking easy prey in a town where we formerly didn’t worry about locking our doors.
Body type J: Shirley Benz’s neighborhood was one of the first to be hit, about two years ago. She decided to do something about it, and she outlined the whole procedure for Tuesday night’s meeting. Since initiating this program, they have begun to know each other better and to know what is normal and what is not normal in their neighborhood. The number of people who walk through and also the street traffic have decreased noticeably.
Body type J: The LJPD suggests the first step is to establish a Block Captain/coordinator. Depending on the group size, it may call for two or more captains. Begin talking with your neighbors to see who else is interested. Once you have enough interest, contact the La Junta Department Neighborhood Watch Director, Sgt. John Salazar, at (719) 384-2525 or by email at jsalazar@ci.la-junta.co.us. The LJPD will help schedule your first meeting and provide you with a packet of information.
The LJPD officer will attend the initial meeting (you will have your own assigned officer) and guide the discussion. The department will share great resource information, explain the Neighborhood Watch Log and its value, provide crime prevention information and tactics, identify problems or other concerns you may have, and provide information on signs, stickers, and other options to enhance your visibility. The size of the group may vary from five to 25 neighborhood families.
Here is how to do the program, step by step, as Benz did it in her neighborhood:
Subhead: Organize
 - Identify one or two people in the neighborhood or yourself.
 - Make a flyer (or find someone who can). Include: Who you are, where you live, and your contact info, explain you are starting a Neighborhood Watch Program with the La Junta Police Department.
 - Map out the neighborhood boundaries for your group. A good size is 8-18 homes.
- Print the flyers. Go door to door to each home. Speak to at least one adult in the house. You may need repeated visits to catch them home. After a few tries, you may want to tape the flyer to their door. Follow up in a couple of days.
 - As you go door to door take a pen and paper. As you talk to people in the homes start collecting the info to build your NWP members list.
Members identified for the group, ready to plan meeting
- Contact LJPD and set up your time, date and location for your first meeting.
- Make a new flyer with the time, date, and location of your first meeting.
- Deliver the flyers, door to door, email or text. You should have collected email & cell phone numbers. Not everyone has a computer or text.
The first meeting
- The first meeting is a busy one.
- Have a sign in sheet for members as they arrive. Name tags are good to have.
- I found it better to divide the meeting into two parts: the law enforcement officer and the NWP members.
- Law Enforcement Officer - learn about the NWP. Ask questions. Learn what you can and cannot do.
- The Law Enforcement Officer will complete his/her part of the meeting and get back to his/her watch. An officer will be assigned to each NWP group.
First meeting - part two
Neighborhood Watch Meeting
- How do you want to run the group? Formal rules or non-formal? Who will be captain? Secretary? Treasurer? Co- or vice captain? Nominate or volunteer - take a vote.
- How often do you meet? At first, three to four meetings to get things figured out. Later, at least twice a year. Plus extra meetings when issues come up or for fun things.
- Dues/fees. Any group will have small costs for printing flyers, copies, name tags, members info list, and maps. Copy one for each house. Signs are the biggest cost.
- Find out who can build your members contact list. Who can make the map on photoshop? Or any other skills they can help with.
- Way to communicate with the group - Facebook? Calling tree? Online groups? Nextdoor.com
(However, remember probably not everyone is computer-savvy.)
Neighborhood Watch Signs
- Do you want signs in your neighborhood?
- Who pays for the signs? You do! They cost $88 each.
- What style sign do you get? Many to choose from.
- Where do you get the signs printed? Benz’s group used The Sign Shop.
- How many signs do you need and who will put them up? The City Engineer will come out and evaluate the best place(s) to put the signs and how many you need. The city will install the signs.
- Expect about 6-8 weeks for this process.
Benz suggests you use this group to improve your neighborhood and to identify other neighborhood issues, such as weeds or broken down cars. Maybe you have single senior people living alone that could use some help. Have fun activities, such as block parties, a Christmas lighting competition, or outdoor movies. Get to know who lives in the neighborhood. The meeting place may rotate among homes - or you could use a church, restaurant, or the meeting room at Woodruff Memorial Library (needs to be reserved). Set up the time, date, and location of your next meeting before you leave the first meeting.
Body type J: Chief Quick said a doorbell camera is also a good idea and not too expensive. Note: one house was burgled from a rear door. Quick said, “The best result we can hope for is to get these people out of town.” Also, Benz suggests you are less likely to be robbed if you have your eyes open in your own neighborhood. If you notice something suspicious, you can call Officer Jessica Madrid at (719) 384-2525 or call 411. Thieves are looking for an easy target. Let’s not be one.