A counterterrorism consultant is suggesting major changes to the Boston Police Department’s neighborhood crime watch program, saying better management could make it a far more effective crime-fighting and homeland security tool, the Boston Globe reports. Duncan Shipley Dalton says the department should require better communication between the crime watch unit and community service officers and more aggressively monitor the groups so officials know where the crime watch is active. Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole will strongly consider the changes, particularly because the city plans to rely on the watch groups as part of its homeland security strategy. She believes about 200 to 300 crime watch groups are active in Boston, and pledged to increase that number.
Vigilant residents can be effective counterterrorism tools, Dalton said, because terrorists would probably move to a neighborhood and plan their attack for months before striking. ”They’re not going to just turn up, get off the plane, and immediately go and commit an act of terrorism,” he said. ”They’re going to come here and live here for six to 12 months beforehand.” He said the city’s management of the crime watch system is so disorganized that department officials do not know exactly how many groups are active. Most of the crime watch work is being performed by community service officers who often do not communicate with the centralized crime watch unit, which was reduced from six employees to four in 2003.