Backing your block

A guide to forming a neighborhood block club

Getting to know your neighbors isn’t always easy. Many people lead busy lives and stay cooped up during the long winter months.

One useful way to bond with your neighbors and work to prevent crime is to form a block club.

Chelsea Adams, Southwest’s Sector 3 Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS), said block clubs help neighbors get better acquainted and be on the lookout for unusual activities.

"You’re more likely to be invested in the neighborhood if you know what’s going on and if you care about your neighbors," she said.

 
Everyone loves a party

Lynnhurst residents on the 5000 block of Aldrich Avenue South pride themselves in their 37-year-old club. When leader Karen Dalebroux and her husband moved into the neighborhood in 1990, they only expected to stay for around five years. But after building relationships and planning numerous get-togethers with their neighbors, Dalebroux said, "We’ve got a pretty good thing going here."

In addition to an annual summer block party, the neighbors take turns hosting events such as Blocktoberfest, a gathering with home-brewed beer and a fire pit; Wine About the Neighborhood, a food and wine-tasting party with pizza and movies for the kids; and Pink Flamingo Happy Hour, wherein party hosts stick pink flamingo ornaments in their lawns.

Though their Lynnhurst block doesn’t face a lot of crime, having extra eyes on the street can come in handy.

One neighbor was standing in his kitchen looking outside when he noticed a man peering into the windows of a vacant house, Dalebroux recalled. The man ended up getting arrested and the neighbor was able to identify him at the police station.

On March 20, the block won a crime prevention award from the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct.

Other blocks have created clubs specifically for the purpose of combating crime. Last spring, neighbors on the 5600 block of Blaisdell Avenue South decided to band together after noticing an increase in mobile drug dealing.

Leader Ann Palmer has called the police twice and recorded accounts of drug deals three times since the group formed. Along with other neighbors, she went door knocking to let everyone on the block know what types of behavior to look for. When suspicious cars pull over, the neighbors call one another and arrange to go outside and pretend to pull weeds until the car drives away.

"We haven’t seen mobile drug dealing since last summer," said Palmer.

Matt Perry, block leader for 4200 Colfax and founder of mplsblockclub.org, a website dedicated to connecting leaders citywide, has also noticed mobile drug dealing in his neighborhood, but he isn’t convinced that block clubs are the answer.

"I haven’t seen the tangible effects," he said, adding that scaring dealers off of one block will only push them onto another, rather than solving the problem.

In the coming months, Perry hopes to organize a meeting for all block club leaders to discuss ways to better protect their streets. He plans to invite representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and neighborhood associations to answer questions about topics such as what happens when someone calls 911 and what information neighbors should try to collect for certain crimes.

Adams agrees that communication between the police and block leaders is important, but due to the privacy laws, she can’t disclose information about leaders to their neighbors. Residents can call Adams at 673-2815 to find out if they have a block leader, and she’ll facilitate their initial
communication.

 
Getting the ball rolling

The initiative of one or two people is often all it takes to start a block club. The MPD holds training seminars several times a year. During the seminar, neighbors learn crime prevention information, when to call 911 and how to gather neighbor information and host an effective meeting. Residents can also meet their CPS and set up block-wide home security surveys.

Adams, who has more than 300 contacts from Armatage, Fulton, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Tangletown and Windom in her database of block club members, recommends that leaders hold at least one function per year, preferably a party. "If people are already doing something like National Night Out and they’re having that annual meeting — if somebody’s already hosting that, they could make a great block club leader," she said.

Many clubs have more than one leader and cycle the role throughout the year.

"It just takes somebody to say, ‘Yes. This is important,’" Dalebroux said. "In the end, everyone really does enjoy it."

Contact Mary O’Regan at [email protected] or 436-5088.