‘We are the eyes that watch to make sure our community is safe,’ says Neighborhood Watch’s award-winning captain

ORLANDO, Florida. – While our first responders play a critical role in keeping communities safe, neighbors can also have a big impact by coming together.

This is something Margaret Hill has known for years. She is the neighborhood watch captain for the Rock Lake neighborhood of Orlando and she takes the safety of her community seriously.

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“What we are are the eyes that watch to make sure our community is always safe,” Hill said. “You know, you can’t control human behavior. And what you can do is just make our neighbors aware that there are things we need to do to protect ourselves.

Hill has worked with neighbors since the early 1990s near Colonial and Orange Blossom Trail. In May, Rock Lake was named 2020 Neighborhood Watch of the Year.

“We’ve been one of the original communities since our inception of crime watch,” Hill said. “We’ve been Neighborhood of the Year for the City of Orlando for one night. We’ve been Neighborhood of the Year for Crime Watch twice. We’ve had Block Captains Honored for District 5 three times.

Neighborhood Watch of the Year (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

In some neighborhoods, the watches are not very crowded. There is not much interest. So why does it work so well at Rock Lake.

“Quality of life is something we look forward to, communication, prevention, intervention and connection. We have a community where there are a lot of people who relate to each other,” Hill said.

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Hill said it makes it easier to share information among friends. They also host events like block parties to encourage communication, patrol together, and even work with the police together.

Neighbors beautify the neighborhood (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

“During COVID we really started walking in this community and walking was another way to start noting things that we could call the police department and say, ‘Listen, this is happening,'” Hill said. . “And I tell them all the time, I say, ‘Keep patrolling our area, we’re not cutting and fighting and shooting every weekend. But we still need your presence. And so they go through to let people know. And every time we call instantly they are there. Also the fire department, we can’t forget the fire department because they are part of our Crime Watch. If anything happens , they are the first person to come and take care of someone if they are injured during any of the events.

And that attitude has now grown to include the entire Western Lakes Partnership area…

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“So what we have done collectively through Florida Citrus sports, the West Lakes Partnership, Lift Orlando, the Polis Foundation, we have come together to make sure we continue to support each other. So it’s not just Rock Lake now. These are the five neighborhoods I work with. And it’s also about the people of central Florida. What we’ve done is we’ve come together to try to, we can’t stop the crime, but we can at least be aware of what’s going on,” Hill said. “I think building bridges with all the people who sit in our community is very necessary if we want to continue to be strong with Crime Watch.”

West Lakes Partnership with Florida Citrus Sports and Lift Orlando (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

But it’s not just about keeping crime out of the area, it’s also about defending its neighbors.

“The Rock Lake Neighborhood Center is our crown jewel,” Hill said. “We moved to this area in the late 70s, early 80s. And there was no community center here. The neighbors actually came up with a plan with Commissioner Daisy Lynum and said, “We need to get these kids off the streets. We don’t want them playing basketball in the street. We want them to be connected to the community. “So we decided to have a community garden out back as well.”

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And that’s not all.

“One of the neighborhoods, which is near the Citrus Bowl, didn’t have a crime watch community. And so one of the things that several of us in the Rock Lake neighborhood did was is that we decided to go and attend one of their meetings And one of the things that we suggested at that neighborhood meeting was to look at the Crime Watch program Call Officer Carl Anderson, he will come and he will help you. So I think it’s another proud moment for me, because they just had the first block party, and if they had one person, they had 500 people. It was wonderful Hill said, “And with the new park, I’ve been a big part of being on the committee for the new Lorna Doone park, because I want our kids to have a safe place to go.”

But despite being known as the ringleader, Hill said Crime Watch takes a village to make Rock Lake the safest neighborhood in Orlando.

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“There are a lot of things that we as neighbors have done to improve this neighborhood. I don’t take it all on my own, because I can’t do it on my own. I believe in teamwork to support and represent. But it’s teamwork. »

Rock Lake Neighbors (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All Rights Reserved.

Sam D. Gomez