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Modernizing Mission’s neighborhood watch program

20120504-Missiion-Police-Neighborhood-QR-Code-012MISSION — The Mission Police Department unveiled a new “mobile” Neighborhood Watch Program this week. The effort will allow residents to scan QR codes from signs located throughout the city, which will provide information about crime within an area as well as safety tips or warnings.

On Wednesday, MPD unveiled their first sign at La Tierra de los Encinos neighborhood, Thornwood and Mayberry streets. The new Neighborhood Watch signs now include two QR codes.

The first code directs a citizen to the information about criminal history for the previous month. The other QR code will give safety tips and a message from the police chief. The code will also give residents any information if there is an unsolved case, a person or vehicle of interest police are looking for. The Websites the QR codes will be directing citizens to will be updated at the beginning of every month with the previous month’s information.

The criminal history the QR code shared about the northeast sector included 36 thefts, five stolen vehicles, 29 burglaries of a vehicle and 16 burglaries of habitations. The history of La Tierra de los Encinos included, what Mission Police Chief Martin Garza calls crimes of opportunity, two stolen bikes and one stolen lawnmower.

This first sign is located in the northeast sector. The northeast sector encompasses Conway Avenue to Taylor Road and Business 83 to around 2 ½ Mile Line or 3 Mile Line roads, depending on the city boundaries. There will be six sectors and each sign will show what sector it is in, highlighted in blue. The signs will be going up in 32 neighborhoods throughout the city that currently have neighborhood watch programs.

Garza said the Neighborhood Watch is a program that works. Reports have shown there has been a reduction in property theft, auto thefts and larceny thefts in the city. He attributed the reduction to residents’ involvement in their Neighborhood Watch Program, adding that most of these types of crimes are committed in neighborhoods.

Garza said they wanted to modernize the Neighborhood Watch Program. He wanted to find a way to bring more of that information to residents.

“It’s a program that gets together with neighbors getting them involved with gaining ownership of their neighborhood and community,” said Garza. “We just wanted to put a little advertisement and a little twist for our neighborhood watch program.”

Garza said, “Crime is mobile.” Crime moves around. He said the more crimes are reported, the more it moves away from one area and moves to another. This is something he wants to see happen.

Garza said the project was made possible with the help of 15 technology students at South Texas College.

“The students helped the Mission Police Department make this project a reality,” said Garza.

Chris Grissom, one of the students that helped with the project, said it made him feel good to participate in this project.

“To finally see it coming to the public in this manner, I think it’s great,” Grissom said. “It’s nice to be part of something bigger. Everyone likes to see something they have put forward, put so much time and thought into brought to life.”

In February, MPD asked for volunteers to help come up with something new and different, said Grissom.

Grissom said the students researched the idea, visited the police department and the neighborhood to brainstorm ideas, and learned more about the Neighborhood Watch Program before finalizing on something solid. He said it’s almost late for this idea to be implemented because the use of QR codes has become very popular with advertisements, retail and sharing information.

“The fact that it’s not being used, is kind of sad,” said Grissom adding advertisers have been ahead of that game.

Resident Javier Hernandez said he was pleased with the effort. He said because of the information the codes supply, it will encourage them to keep their eyes open.

Another resident, Belinda Rodriguez, said she liked the program because she can rely on neighbors to watch each other’s homes as someone is at work or out of town.

Rodriguez said she is still trying to get used to the use of QR codes but it’s good to know that you can just scan it and get the information you need to know. She said the program is going to be useful as well to find out what type of neighborhood you are visiting or considering moving into.

“You want to live somewhere you are going to be safe,” Rodriguez said. “Where you know you can go outside and you don’t have to worry about something happening.”

MPD and STC students will be visiting neighborhoods in the coming weeks as the signs are going up. They will be helping residents download a free application on their smartphones, and showing them how the application and signs are used, making it possible for residents to scan the code.

Similar QR codes will be located at parks, restaurants and hotels throughout the city as well. The codes in parks will give similar information as the neighborhood signs, but also pertaining to the park. The codes in restaurants will be by the means of a “Scan Me” sticker. The code will give tips and give information about events in Mission. The codes at hotels will be welcoming visitors and give them tips on not leaving cars unattended and how to protect belongings.

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