Since 2007, Merritt has adopted the Block Watch Program, an initiative that promotes the community’s involvement in crime prevention. Locals are invited to sign up as Block Watch members for their respective neighbourhoods. They are given the opportunity to report any suspicious activities in their area as well as the opportunity to build a network in their block. 

There are 12 current Block Watch groups in the city. One of which covers McGoran Place, headed by Block Watch Co-Captain Ellen Nast. The Herald spoke with Nast to learn about her experience working in a Block Watch group for about 14 years. 

“The idea for it is to make sure that neighbours know each other and look out for each other,” said Nast. “We have everybody on our street signed up as a Block Watch member. We also have a couple of houses that are around the corner from us signed up as well.” 

Shortly after Nast moving in to McGoran Place, she was approached by the previous captain of the area’s Block Watch group. Meeting new members of the neighbourhood was one of the duties of the captain. 

“I don’t think everybody on the street was signed up for it back then,” she recalled. “The person who was in charge of it was moving. I was asked if I have any interest in picking up the program and continue running it.” 

Nast at the time was an active community member, taking part in many local groups, while working at Merritt Secondary School. 

McGoran Place Block Watch Co-Captains Ellen Nast and Al Clarke. Photo/Al Clarke

“I was happy to take on a leadership role, being supported by my co-leader Al Clarke,” she said. “This was a nice way for me to get to know my neighbours.” 

Co-leading the neighbourhood Block Watch, Nast gave a short list of her duties:

  • Communicating with neighbours any new developments/information about the neighbourhood
  • Welcoming new people moving to the area
  • Updating the network of contacts 
  • Organizing an annual social event for the neighbourhood

Nast noted that she updates her network of contacts every year, updating any changes of contact information, household head count, and other pertinent information that proves useful to the Block Watch.

“We don’t have a lot of concerns on our street,” Nast stated. “We haven’t had a lot of major incidents. I credit a big part of it to our people’s willingness to look out for each other.” 

Through email, Nast can quickly inform the rest of the Block Watch about any suspicious activity, she can also contact the RCMP directly if the situation requires it. 

“When someone had their shed broken into, they let me know, so I could make everyone else in the neighbourhood aware,” she recalled. “It’s good that everyone knew that because now everyone is more alert.” 

“We see the Block Watch being an important way that community members can be active in keeping our community safe,” said Cnst. Blake Chursinoff. 

“When neighbours are connected, they can work together to help watch and share information amongst themselves and with police.  We encourage anyone interested in setting up a Block Watch to reach out to the Community Policing Office and we can help them get started.  It doesn’t take a large time commitment and can make a real difference if your neighbourhood becomes a target.” 

Viewing it as an essential tool in crime prevention, the Merritt Community Policing Office (CPO) is planning to hold a training session in February for Block Watch Captains and Co-Captains. For more information, please follow Merritt CPO’s official Facebook page.