Neighborhood Watch applied to swim centers

The Neighborhood Watch program was developed to help people prevent crime in their neighborhoods.

Much of the Neighborhood Watch info can be applied to safety at a pool complex, such as how to recognize suspicious activity, persons, vehicles and how to report such things when you see them. That section of the handbook, a list of circumstances when the police really want you to call them, is reproduced below with additional notes from other sources, including the American Red Cross Lifeguard Management text, for educational purposes as a homework assignment for my lifeguard training and swim instructor classes.

Info about the Neighborhood Watch program is at:

Details about the Neighborhood Watch program is at:

Neighborhood Watch works best when people know their neighbors, and a pool complex is a safer place if the staff knows the staff at neighboring businesses. Walking the area to notice what is over the back side of your fences/walls and taking the time to meet the people who work at each place near your pool could be quite worthwhile. This could give a manager the opportunity to suggest, for example, that your neighbors not plant a tree next to a fence/wall or have anything (ladder, furniture or …) near a fence that would let a child climb over the fence. (Or that an existing tree be kept trimmed enough that a child could not easily use it to climb over.)

poolchemicalsignatDeAnzaCollege 47 pxls: pool chemical sign in four colors representing various hazards You could look for signs telling you what kind(s) of dangerous chemicals might be stored very near your facility pool chemical signs.

Exchanging phone numbers can help when you notice something out of place at another facility and vice-versa. Knowing the street address of the place over your back fence can help you report suspicious activity (or something as big as a fire in progress) to 911, and likewise you are safer if they have your street address posted next to their phone. If you make a ‘map” of all the quite local businesses (including yours) with the phone numbers and street addresses, you could give it to all your neighboring businesses to post next to phones.

Crime flourishes when people do not meaningfully interact with their neighbors.

Recognizing Suspicious Activity

BE ALERT. Anything that seems slightly “out of place” or is
occurring at an unusual time of day could be criminal activity. DO

Call the police or sheriff’s department immediately, and do not worry about being
embarrassed if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. Law enforcement officers would rather investigate than be called when it is too late.

The following incidents MAY indicate possible criminal activity
and should be reported:

• Continuous repair operations at a nonbusiness location
(stolen property being altered);

• Open or broken doors and windows at a closed business or
unoccupied residence (burglary or vandalism);

• Unusual noises, such as gunshots, screaming, or dogs
barking continuously (burglary, assault, or rape);

• Sound of breaking glass (burglary or vandalism);

• A person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms
(person may be injured, under the influence of drugs, or
otherwise needing medical attention).

Time and accuracy are critical in reporting crime or suspicious
events. Use your law enforcement agency’s emergency number
to report life-threatening incidents or a crime in progress, and use
the non-emergency number for crimes that have already
occurred. Your call could save a life, prevent an injury, or stop a
crime. The information you provide will be kept confidential. You
do not need to give your name, although this is often helpful.

Suspicious Persons

Obviously, not every stranger who comes into a neighborhood
is a criminal. Legitimate door-to-door sales and repair people
appear in residential areas frequently. Occasionally, however,
criminals disguise themselves as these workers; therefore, it is
important to be alert to the activities of all nonresidents. Law
enforcement officials should be called to investigate persons in
the following circumstances, who may be suspects in the crimes

• Going door to door in a residential area, especially if one or
more goes to rear of residence or loiters in front of an
unoccupied house or closed business (burglary);

• Forcing entrance or entering an unoccupied house
(burglary, theft, or trespassing);

• Running, especially if carrying something of value or carrying
unwrapped property at an unusual hour (fleeing the scene
of a crime);

• Heavy traffic to and from a residence, particularly if it occurs
on a daily basis (drug dealing, vice or fence operation);

• Screaming (rape or assault);

• Loitering around or peering into cars, especially in parking
lots or on streets (car theft);

• Loitering around schools, parks or secluded areas (sex

• Offering items for sale at a very low price (trying to sell
stolen property);

• Loitering or driving through a neighborhood several times
or appearing as delivery person with a wrong address (burglary).”

Adults in general at pools do interact with kids. Many adults at pools are not ‘suspicious’; they are used to caring for their own children and helping kids who need assistance or playing with kids who are playing with their own children. But at a pool a suspicious person might include adults who are not the parent of a child who attempt to interact with the child and get close to them by playing games, who bump into kids in the pool or photograph kids.

These adults might also be suspicious:

A person who makes several slow passes through a locker room looking in the showers or taking overly long showers.

An adult (or a teenager or older child) who seems to go into lockerrooms or changing areas when a group of children are either arriving or getting ready to leave, or who loiters around the kiddie pool or a play structure.

An adult who is the only person swimming under children’s legs or having children who are not his/hers swim under his or her legs.

An adult who seems to stare at a child or who is underwater wearing goggles looking at kids for a considerable period of time.

An adult who makes physical contact with a child, including excessive or aggressive tickling. Contact games such as water tag can hide inappropriate contact.

Staff should be especially careful to discuss any suspicions they have only with their supervisor and to do so immediately. If you decide that staff members will confront such persons you must decide who will and have a well planned method that empowers them to do so in a respectful but firm manner. Local law enforcement can be invited to your pool to contribute to your policies and procedures.

High risk areas of a pool, such as the locker room, showers, steam room and sauna should be regularly checked / walked through to discourage improper behavior or loitering.

Clearly posted rules clearly defining inappropriate behavior without being too explicit can serve notice that your staff is watching. Banning cell phone use in locker rooms, etc. also effectively prohibits the use of a cell phone as a camera without being that specific.

Security cameras should obviously not be in a locker room, but at the entrance. Cameras at the entrances to locker rooms can give potential criminals notice that there is a record of their comings and goings, perhaps deterring them. Stairwells, isolated areas, rooms with limited access or with no supervision can be places where a child alone could be more vulnerable. Local law enforcement can be invited to your pool to help chose places for cameras.

Suspicious Vehicles

Vehicles in the following situations MAY be involved in crimes
and should be reported to authorities:

• Slow moving, without lights, following aimless course in any location, including residential streets, schools, and playgrounds
(burglar, drug pusher, or sex offender);

• Parked or occupied, containing one or more persons, especially at an unusual hour (lookouts for a burglary or robbery);

• Parked by a business or unoccupied residence, being loaded with valuables (burglary or theft);

• Abandoned in your neighborhood (stolen car);

• Containing weapons (criminal activity);

• Someone, especially a female or juvenile, being forced into a vehicle (kidnapping, assault, or attempted rape);

• Business transactions taking place in it, especially around schools or parks (sale of stolen items or drugs);

• Someone attempting to forcibly enter it, especially in a parking lot (theft of car or its contents);

• Persons detaching mechanical parts or accessories from it (theft or vandalism);

• Objects being thrown from it (disposing of contraband).

Describing and Reporting of Events, Vehicles and Persons

Practicing to develop skill in providing quick, accurate descriptions is an excellent NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH meeting activity.”

(Such practice could also be an excellent in-service training at a pool.)

“In attempting to describe events, vehicles, or persons, write down the details of what you have observed while they are still fresh in your mind, so your descriptions to law enforcement officials will be as accurate as possible.

Describing Events

When describing events, write down:

• What happened;

• When it happened;

• Where it occurred (note the nearest cross street, home address, or landmark in relationship to the event);

• Whether injuries are involved (Be prepared to report visible or suspected personal injury. Be as specific as possible—this could save a life!);

• Whether weapons are involved (this information, whether observed or suspected, is vital to responding officers).

Describing Vehicles

When describing vehicles, write down:

• Vehicle license number and state, make and type of vehicle, color, and approximate age;

• Special designs or unusual features, such as vinyl top, mag wheels, pinstripes, etc.;”

(and any damage to the vehicle)

“• Direction of travel.”

(Direction of travel refers to the direction on a street a vehicle took, as in “he drove north on Median Boulevard.” Having a map of the close-in area next to the phone can help you give information to the police when necessary, especially if you are panicking and have forgotten the names of cross streets at your pool.)

Describing Persons

In preparing descriptions of persons, it is important to write down the following:

• Sex;

• Race;

• Age;

• Height (estimated from eye contact level measured against your height);”

(Many establishments have stripes painted on door jams showing height for identification as people enter or leave a building.)

“• Weight;

• Hair (color and length; does it look dyed?);

• Hat;

• Facial Hair (beard/mustache);

• clothing style/color;

(Shirt/tie, Coat/jacket, Trousers, Shoes)

• Any peculiar or distinguishable mannerisms, physical disabilities,
disfigurations, scars or tattoos;

• Voice characteristics (deep, lisp, accent);

• Direction of movement.”

And if you notice, right handed or left handed (which hand reached for a door knob).

Remember the warning in the lifeguarding text:
“If violence does erupt, a lifeguard should not try to stop it. A lifeguard should never confront a violent patron physically or verbally nor approach a patron who has a weapon.”

See also: Emergency Action Plan for a coach or swim instructor

CPO What a certified pool operator (CPO) knows that lifeguards and swimmers should know.