On Halloween night, 1974, a 12 year-old girl and her younger sister were just completing their “Trick or Treat” walk. As they approached their house, a man jumped from behind bushes and raped the girl. The description of the man matched that of a serial rapist wanted throughout Florida and dubbed “the Gentle Rapist”.
The neighbourhood was outraged and we were fearful for our own families. We banded together at my house for a meeting with police officers who were providing training in home and self-protection as well as an update on the perpetrator. This meeting quickly led to the founding of the Miami-Dade County Citizens Crime Watch (CCW).
In 1977, the tragedy of the young girl was still in our minds and we created Youth Crime Watch, as a program of the CCW. The purpose of Youth Crime Watch was not only to teach our children how to protect themselves, but to utilize their unique abilities to prevent crime and drug abuse. It was set up to empower young people to run their own Watches with assistance from an advisor and a partnership with the police.
In 1979, because of the success of the neighbourhood Youth Crime Watch, the Miami Dade County Schools requested we set up the same program for students in schools. The schools program was well structured. In this contained environment we had the opportunity to apply the same principles of crime reporting, prevention training and watching out for neighbours, but much more effectively. We saw amazing results. The Watches spread to cities throughout Florida and the Nation. As a result, Youth Crime Watch of America was created in 1986 to take Youth Crime Watch nationally and internationally.
The challenge for our Youth Crime Watchers is to change the attitudes and atmosphere in their schools and neighbourhoods from negative to positive. Just as in adult neighbourhood watches, where the goal is to have everyone in the neighbourhood watching out, schools strive to have 100% of all students consider themselves “Crime Watchers” and participate in some way. In fact, the entire school or neighbourhood should be involved. Everyone should feel that stopping crime, drug abuse, violence and other negative behaviour is their responsibility and they must be alert and morally strong enough to do the right thing.
Youth Crime Watch is not just a program. It’s a philosophy of watching out, helping out”, positive peer pressure, respecting people. Taking responsibility for one’s own surroundings and just plain good citizenship. We are proud of our Youth Crime Watchers, so full of altruism, energy and talent. They are determined to endow the future with a greater degree of compassion and love. With the vast communication opportunities now available to support a spirited youth movement, I feel confident we will find, in this millennium, a safer, more “neighbourly” world.
Youth Crime Watch of America
Youth Crime Watch of America, Inc., now Ignitus Worldwide is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing Youth Crime Watches across the United States and other countries. Unlike other programs, where well-intentioned adults attempt to solve youths’ problems, Youth Crime Watch gives youngsters the tools and guidance necessary to actively reduce crime and drug use in their schools and communities. With hundreds of programs throughout the country, Youth Crime Watch programs are credited with significantly reducing crime and drug use since the early 1980s.
Youth Crime Watch started in Miami-Dade County, as a component of Citizen’s Crime Watch. Because of the effectiveness of the Youth Crime Watch of Dade program, Youth Crime Watch of America (YCWA) was created to reproduce successful Youth Crime Watch programs throughout the country. YCWA has been recognized by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Reagan. Additionally, YCWA has received national honors, such as being named a U.S. Department of Education Exemplary Program of Excellence.
Through notable adult mentors and advisors, as well as through effective community collaboration, the YCW model open-handedly provides youth with the tools and guidance necessary to shape the basic principles of good citizenship, positive values, and self-confidence that underlie the YCW mission to aggressively and constructively counter crime, violence, and drug use.
Youth take an active role in addressing the problems around them because they are part of a community and everyone must be a part of the solution. Therefore, youth and adult advisors are trained in YCW methods; these youth take ownership of their own program for their school, neighborhood, public housing site, recreational center, or park. YCWA provides site with complete services for implementation, maintenance, and growth.
1. To establish Youth Crime Watch programs across the States of the Federation.
2. To give young people the tools and guidance necessary to actively reduce drugs, crime and violence in their schools and communities.
3. To provide leadership and guidance to other organizations working with youths to achieve the prevention of drugs, crime and violence.
4. To demonstrate to young people that togetherness, affiliations and partnerships are powerful responses to threats that require more than individual action.