When Robin Robicheaux returned to Norco, she realized her old neighborhood had changed and they needed help.
“This is a very old community and there’s a lot of people I don’t know,” Robicheaux said. “The old pass on and sometimes their heirs move in, and there were some break-ins in the parish in 2016 and several break-ins in Norco.”
Robicheaux and her sister decided to reach out to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for help on how to start a Neighborhood Watch, which was backed by the Norco Civic Association.
Nearly seven months later, the organization was up and running.
“We’re trying to teach the community to watch out and it’s really helping,” she said. “We’re very aware. We watch things.”
Robicheaux heads the group, which is supported by nearly 40 block captains. Although she is retiring from her job, she said that will let her dedicate more time to their group and it’s growing.
The Norco Neighborhood Watch slogan for 2020 is, “If you see something say something.”
Robicheaux said the emphasis is on reporting something no matter how small it may seem, which is an important lesson endorsed by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“We have a lot of elderly people in the community who don’t have anybody here,” she said. “They are kind of shy on asking for help so that is my goal for 2020 and here on out to reach out.”
There are also many young families in Norco, and Robicheaux is dedicated to helping teach them to promote safety for everyone who lives in their community.
Sheriff Greg Champagne said other neighborhoods should follow Norco’s lead in establishing their own neighborhood watch.
“This program is endorsed by the National Sheriff’s Association on a national level,” Champagne said. “It is time tested and has proven to help build relationships in communities while promoting safer and stronger neighborhoods. We strongly recommend more people come together to start groups like the Neighborhood Watch Group because it is a great way to help protect your home town.”
Cpl. James Grimaldi, the parish’s crime prevention officer, said the program is centered around education, sharing information and creating a safety web of concerned citizens throughout a specific area that do what is in their powers to work hand-in-hand with the law enforcement officers in that community.
To begin a group, Sheriff’s Office representatives will meet with Neighborhood Watch members and educate them on basic patrolling and observation techniques.
“This is not because we are looking for citizens to be the next friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, this is because when citizens are out walking their dog, or driving to and from the grocery store they are informally patrolling their neighborhood,” Grimaldi said. “By teaching them what deputies are looking for, it adds that many more sets of eyes searching for criminal activity in a neighborhood.”
Grimaldi said they are constantly stressing to resident to get to know their neighbors.
“In neighborhoods like Norco, this is essential to having a protected community. It is not about other people raising your children. It is about locals being held accountable for their actions when they made a bad decision to do something wrong. In essence, it is a community policing their community.”
Neighborhood Watch overall is based on “See something say something,” which puts eyes in every community that is on the watch.
Grimaldi said deputies are often told neighbors saw something during an apparent crime but did not call the Sheriff’s Office.
“I constantly tell every citizen of the parish, I would much rather come out 100 times for nothing than come out one time because someone has become a victim,” he said. “Play on the side of caution and call the Sheriff’s Office anytime you see something that you find curious.“
Grimaldi emphasized, “Help be our eyes and ears, call 911 and let us come check out whatever you believe is not right in your neighborhood.”
In Norco, the effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch has already been tested and proven a proactive move that counters crime.
Nearly two years ago, Robicheaux recounted a suspicious van was spotted in the community that potentially involved children and they put out the alert. She said the incident was addressed before anything bad happened.
“I think it made a difference,” she said. “It kept crime down. I feel my community is safer for sure.”