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Apollo Beach Neighborhood Watch group growing

Published on: February 18, 2015

By KEVIN BRADY

Starting with only 50 members last August, an Apollo Beach Neighborhood Watch group has taken root and grown into an organization with more than 600 members online.

With a mission to improve “community health” and not just curtail crime, the group is thriving.

“There is a new understanding that this is a community page and we are all community watchers,” said Kimberly Gill, an Apollo Beach resident who launched the Facebook page last year.

Perhaps most rewarding for Gill, several local communities have already formed their own local watch groups, keeping their eyes and ears open in their neighborhoods and passing along tips to each other about suspicious activity or sometimes just simply letting each know that they will be on vacation for a few weeks.

“We have had three neighborhoods break off and form their own individual community watches,” Gill said. “They hold their own meetings pertaining to their own streets or subdivision, and they communicate with us, and it has made [the watch groups] more effective because one person cannot possibly watch the entire city.”

It’s not just about crime prevention. “We want our elderly to know if they can’t get their garbage out to the street, someone will help,” said Gill. “It’s a community wellness group. That is my vision.”

Gill helped form the watch group last year when she witnessed the aftermath of a smash-and-grab robbery on a car outside her granddaughter’s aftercare program. Coming on the heels of the theft of bicycles from a poor family in her neighborhood and then her own bike being stolen, Gill decided she’d had enough.

“I literally went home that afternoon [after the purse theft] and made the Facebook page,” Gill said. The group’s first official meeting, Aug. 11 last year, drew 50 people.

Gill is convinced the group and the Web page are making a difference in Apollo Beach. “Our goal is to educate and prevent” she said. “That means lock our doors, don’t leave your valuables in the car, and look out for your neighbor’s house if you know they are out of town. It’s making a difference because it is making people more aware.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Diana Watson, who addressed the group’s first meeting and gave tips on how to spot and report suspicious activity, said the Neighborhood Watch “is an eyes-and-ears program. We are here to help but this is your program.”

The deputy urged a better-safe-than-sorry policy when it comes to calling the police non-emergency line, 813-247-8200, if there’s suspicious activity in the area. “Don’t be afraid to call,” Watson said.

The group meets the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at Faith Worx Church, 202 Flamingo Drive. Sign-in is at 6:45 p.m. ID is required, and those attending must be an Apollo Beach resident or business.

For more information, visit the “Apollo Beach FL Neighborhood Watch” page on Facebook or email apollobeachnwg@gmail.com.

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