In the early months of this year, residents of Southeast's Greenway neighborhood were hit with an average of seven burglaries and attempted break-ins a week. In March, they decided to do something about it.
The residents formed a crime prevention club and asked the Sixth District Police Precinct for help in keeping crime out of their neighborhood.
Since then, police have held weekly meetings at the Sixth District station to teach residents such things as how to spot suspicious persons in the neighborhood, what information to remember to help police search for a criminal, how to register belongings and how to protect their homes, said Officer Sue McGinnis.
Last week, the residents took to the streets themselves for something of a celebration: Crime activity has gone down to less than two burglaries a month.
About 200 people turned out for the Neighborhood Watch Awareness Fair, the first such public event since the mayor initiated a 13-point crime prevention plan last February.
"We have a lot of work to do and we've got to get it done," said Elizabeth Travers, cofounder of the Citizens of Sixth District Neighborhood Watch Crime Prevention Club.
"This is to make people aware of what can happen. Most people are careless with their daily lives," said Juanita Short of 216 34th St. SE. Short and the two neighbors who live on either side of her small frame house have looked out for each other since they moved into the neighborhood more than a year ago.
"We all have different hours, we all have dogs, we have each others' phone numbers at work," said Wanda Freeman, block captain of the 200 block on 34th Street.
The recently renovated apartments and influx of new neighbors hampered communication among the neighbors for a time and may have attributed to the high rate of crime the area experienced earlier this year, residents of the streets said.
Freeman, a victim of a burglary shortly after her move into a Capitol Hill neighborhood four years ago, said that knowing her two neighbors made her feel better about living there.
The club hopes to create a fund that could be used to help future victims of crime in the neighborhood, and to expand the crime watch club to other streets in the area, said cofounder Sandra L. Moon.
"I've been fortunate," said Moon, who hosted the club's first gathering in her home on Croffut Place. "The fair was to get more people together."
It did just that. Penny candy, music vibrating from a police van, and the clatter of two bands drew curious residents out of their homes. The fair also featured visual displays of drug paraphernalia from the police department's drugmobile, a mock court involving a burglary case enacted by Evans Junior High School students, and a weight-lifting show by a boys' club.
Around the corner, Ted and Geneva Harrison, four-year residents of Croffut Place, ventured out on their porch to watch the fair. Owners of a dog that is part German shepherd, part collie, the couple credited their varied schedules, which allow someone to be at home most of the time, for the lack of attacks on their home.
"I guess that's made all the difference," said Ted Harrison.