Online 'neighbourhood watch' groups getting popular in Windsor
Bonnie Ford, founder and Jennifer Jones, administrator of "Riverside Neighbourhood Watch" using the Facebook page on Feb. 13, 2020. (Rich Garton / CTV Windsor)
WINDSOR -- Some Windsor residents are putting a new twist on an old idea by targeting suspicious activity and crime on their blocks, with online neighbourhood watch groups.
One Facebook group in particular, "Riverside Neighbourhood Watch" was founded by Bonnie Ford about two years ago.
"It’s just a group of concerned neighbours trying to look out for each other and share whatever information about what's going on," says group founder, Bonnie Ford.
And it’s working. Police have taken notice of the activity being generated by the 2,500 member group, according to administrator Jennifer Jones.
"They've been keeping an eye on our group and are impressed with how the' group's being run,” Jones says. “They're listening, so they have created a task force to keep an eye on the neighbourhood."
But police say there is no substitute for a formal police report. Supt. Jason Crowley of Windsor Police says many online watch groups exist but rarely to people follow up complaints with police.
"If we don't know about it, we can't help you,” says Supt. Crowley. “If you wake up in the morning and there's something missing from your porch or your car, absolutely, you can do it [report] easily from your phone or on the internet.
“Not on Facebook; not on Twitter. We don't respond to calls like that," he adds.
It’s a message reinforced by watch group founder Bonnie Ford.
"We tell people to report, report, report, report,” Ford says. “Police can't be everywhere and if they don't know what's going on, how can they go and assist you?"
Social media expert and founder of Blab Media Katie Yeomans says online chat groups are a great way to bring neighbourhoods closer.
“These groups are bringing back that mentality of you should be close with your neighbours and you should know who lives near you and you should look out for each other," Yeomans says.
But she adds people need to think twice before they post and carefully consider the repercussions of mistakenly defaming someone’s character online.
“There’s definitely a grey area there,” says Yeomans. “And to some extent, it's the police's job to monitor neighbourhoods.”