How to Start a Neighborhood Watch

Sometimes you have to be the change that you want to see. As a citizen, a neighbor, a parent, a resident, and a community member the more you reach out into your community and get involved, the better and safer your neighborhood will become. What is a great way to be involved? A neighborhood watch program.

Isn’t This What We Have Police Officers For?

Police officers can’t be everywhere. The more eyes and ears they have and the more communication that goes on among neighborhood residents, the better. That is why neighborhood watch programs are so successful: because there are at least concerned citizens in the neighborhood who care – who want to take a stand to keep their streets safe and alert the residents of any danger.

Where Do I Begin?

First, you need to organize a group of residents in your neighborhood and establish some goals and concerns about the criminal activity that may be going on. Only know a few neighbors? Try connecting with local associations like churches, synagogues, youth and senior groups, and civic organizations.

Next, schedule a meeting with your local law enforcement agency – if you want to have an effective neighborhood watch group, a good relationship and open communication lines are important with local law enforcement.

Once you do that, you can come up with plan of action to address the concerns of the neighborhood – focus first on the top three. USA on Watch has a great website with a publication library that will be useful for your group. Check out what they have to offer and work your plan around what you find. You can also register for their newsletter, which will keep you in the loop about other organizations.

Finally, register your group officially!

What Are Our Next Steps?

The following things are common in a neighborhood watch:

· Plan and attend meetings.

· Set up a phone tree with all members.

· Report suspicious and criminal activity.

· Look after residents when neighbors are away.

· Recruit new members.

· Work toward specific goals agreed upon by the group.

· Establish a media relationship.

· Set up a community patrol (citizens drive or walk through the neighborhood for monitoring)

You’re probably wondering, does all of this actually work? The answer is yes, it does. Research by the U.S. Department of Justice conducted a study of 18 different neighborhood watch programs and found that crime in these neighborhoods went down by 16%. It takes an engaged neighborhood – one that communicates and looks out for each other. So what are you waiting for? Join or begin a neighborhood watch today!


Register Your Watch Group in Five Easy Steps (USA on Watch)

Mobilizing a Community with a Neighborhood Watch Program (National Service Resources)

Does a Neighborhood Watch Reduce Crime? (C.O.P.S)

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Neighborhood Benefits of Community Gardens

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Neighborhood Benefits of Community Gardens

When we started the Office of Health Equity in Hillsborough County, we set out to accomplish six main goals within our communities:

  1. Promote physical activity and nutrition

2. Build capacity for communities to be able to institute environmental, organizational and policy changes related to these health risk factors

3. Foster improved and increased access to quality care

4. Help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities

5. Reduce incidence of and complications from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity

6. Reduce tobacco use and exposure

Here’s how community gardens help to serve our neighborhoods in some of these ways:

Promote Physical Activity and Nutrition

Setting up a community garden is not just the job of one community member — it is community-gardenthe job of all community members. Each household or person has an individual plot to tend, and in some cases there is a community plot set aside for everyone to work on. This promotes physical activity because it forces residents to get out of their houses and do physical work to keep up with their own plot.

The beauty of it is the end result is fresh vegetables that members can take home and serve their families! For many families, that means better access to nutritious foods.

Build capacity for communities to be able to institute environmental, organizational and policy changes related to these health risk factors

Starting a community garden is inherently social. Families are not growing vegetables in their own yards – they are doing it on the community plot. Not only does this help engage citizens in being active members of their neighborhoods, but it gets people out of their houses and socializing. The stronger the bonds neighborhood residents build, the less crime you will see because they will look out for each other.

This also builds a system of sustainability within the neighborhood – a way to educate about good nutrition and start up a variety of different learning workshops — it provides a catalyst for further community development and programs by getting people talking.

Help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities

Creating a space for neighborhood residents to work and communicate does more than beautify the neighborhood; it helps to eliminate one of the reasons for disparities among racial and ethnic groups. Many racial and ethnic disparities occur due to the lack of resources and access to fresh food.

Community gardens provide free, self-grown food in a community environment that will allow its residents to have access to fresh foods, help conserve resources, and provide a green space. Many community gardens in the area are used as an arena for health workshops and further education as it is an easy way to gather and engage a specific community.

Reduce incidence of and complications from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity

Ultimately, everything already discussed will lead to a decrease in incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes by providing the following:

· Access to free, locally grown and nutritious fresh foods

· A space for both physical and recreational activities

Here are some other great benefits that community gardens provide:

· Preserves green space within the neighborhood

· Creates possible income opportunities as residents learn a skill: gardening

· Provides opportunities for cross-cultural and intergenerational connections

· Raises nearby property values


Health Equity Coalition of Hillsborough County

American Community Garden Association

Gardeners in Community Development

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Community Gardens in Hillsborough County

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About Us

What is a CSA?

Last week we touched on how important it is to eat local. Not only does it provide more nutrients and flavor because your food didn’t have to travel across the U.S. to land on your plate, but it’s greener and it helps out the local economy. The challenge with eating locally is where do you find locally grown food? Aside from growing it yourself, you usually have to go beyond the neighborhood grocery store.

As we discussed in our last post, some communities have gathered and created community gardens where members work tirelessly for fresh, organic veggies. But what if you don’t have time? What if your community doesn’t have a garden, or what if you just don’t like gardening? That’s where a CSA comes in.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are programs started by your local farmers. Instead of hoping the grocery store around the corner supports local agriculture, you can skip the middle man and buy directly from the farmer.

How does it Work?

what-is-csaEvery season, the farm determines a certain amount of shares they will set aside from their crop each week for their CSA members. In order to become a member of a CSA, you must sign up and pay in advance. As soon as the season starts, you are then able to pick up your “share” every week or every other week, depending on the type of share you purchased.

There are usually half shares and full shares — which determines the frequency of your vegetable pick-ups. The pick-up locations are usually either at the farm, a local market, or a stand within city limits that is set up for members to come at specified times.

What are the Benefits?

· Meet and chat with the people who grow your food – you might learn something!

· Receive the freshest vegetables around.

· Become exposed to new vegetables and even new recipes, as most CSAs pass out recipes for the vegetables in each share.

· Help support the local economy.

· Usually get to visit the farm itself at least once a year.

· Some farms host weekly events your family can attend, like canning workshops or herb drying classes.

CSA’s in Hillsborough County:

· Sweetwater Organic Farm in Tampa

· 3 Boys Farm in Ruskin

· Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm in Tampa

· Steed Farms in Plant City

So why not go local? It’s better fresher and greener! To find out more about locally sustainable practices or being involved in your community, visit our website!


Local Harvest

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Hillsborough County

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Eating Out and Staying Healthy

Community Gardens in Hillsborough County

Promote the local economy, increase your nutrition, eat fresh vegetables and maximize your taste buds at dinner time. These are just some of the reasons you should get your vegetables from local sources. Vegetables sourced locally reduce the carbon footprint, are more nutritious, and they just taste better! The problem most people have is that they either assume their local grocer stocks local vegetables, or they just don’t know where to get them.

You would think that the Publix or Sweetbay around the corner was buying produce from local farmers – I mean, it makes sense right?

Yes it makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that’s what they are doing.

Did you know?

· From field to fork, an average dinner travels 1,500 miles.

· Buying direct from local farmers supports the local economy.

· Locally grown fruits and vegetables are usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested.

· Produce picked and eaten at the height of ripeness has exceptional flavor and, when handled properly, is packed with nutrients.

· Traveling tomatoes are picked green and then gassed with ethylene prior to shipping.

The best way to get local vegetables is to invest in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or join a community garden. A CSA is a local farm that grows and harvests vegetables for the surrounding community. Its members pay a yearly fee and commit a predetermined amount of time to helping farm the land. In return, they receive a weekly share of the crop.

A community garden is a little different. In a community garden, a neighborhood or small group of people find a plot of land and commit to farming it as a community. Each family has a private plot, and additionally there is a community plot. The community garden is entirely run and cared for by each member in the group and the harvest is split up into shares.

As for community gardens, several neighborhoods have established gardens in Hillsborough County.

The Seminole Heights Community Garden

This community garden was started by resident Robin Milcowitz in Seminole Heights. Each member pays a monthly fee for an individual plot. There is also a community peaplantpart of the garden that people commit their time to keeping. There are rows of rain barrels to collect water for the plants. There is also a community compost pile, so all of the plants are cared for without insecticides or chemical fertilizer.

Progress Village Community Garden

This community garden is located in East Hillsborough – in a neighborhood called Progress Village. The garden has been operating for over 10 years now and helps to feed over a thousand people a year. The Progress Village Civic Association aims to expand the garden to include a building for education.

The Eden Project

A community Garden started in the Ybor City area, the Eden Project is headed by Natalia Denglar Blair.

The East Tampa Community Garden

Across the street from Middleton High School, East Tampa residents started this community garden last year. Their goals: to promote community, spark friendships, educate children, and provide free produce to the residents.

The Moses House

This is a non-profit organization that works within the Sulphur Springs area and in partnership with the USF Urban Anthropology department to help raise awareness of nutrition, promote education and help the residents of this community get by. They have just received funding for their community garden project and will begin planting soon.

Wimauma Intergenerational Community Garden Project

This community garden was started adjacent to the Wimauma Senior Center in 2008. The project was started to benefit both the elderly and youthful citizens of the area. Its goal: to provide education, beautification, and of course vegetables!

If you know of a community garden started in Hillsborough County we have not talked about, feel free to leave a comment. To find out more about communities within Hillsborough County, and the efforts that are being done to eliminate health disparities and promote nutrition, education and physical activity, visit our website by clicking here: Health Equity Coalition.


Hillsborough County

Eat Local

St. Pete Times

The Moses House

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HIV/AIDS in Hillsborough County

HIV/AIDS is a serious and growing problem in the United States – it’s a virus for which there is currently no cure. As a country and a nation of concerned citizens, it is crucial that we identify where the major occurrences of the infection are, what specific populations and/or groups of people are affected, how the virus is spreading, and what we can do to prevent the spread.

As of June 2010, there were a reported 11,611 HIV/AIDS cases within the Hillsborough, Hernando, and Manatee county areas (referred to as the Partnership 6 area). As you can see from the map, there are several densely populated areas within the city of Tampa where there were 51- 100 plus people living with the HIV/AIDS virus.


Going by zip code, you can see that the HIV/AIDS virus affects all areas of Tampa, however the highest number of cases occur in south Tampa, east Tampa, Seminole Heights, Sulphur Springs and Ybor City.

The next map shows the occurrences of HIV/AIDS among racial/ethnic lines. The racial group most affected by HIV/AIDS in Hillsborough County is the black, non-Hispanic population. These numbers coincide with the non-affluent areas of Tampa where most of the non-Hispanic black residents live: east Tampa, Sulphur Springs, and the outskirts of Seminole Heights.


According to the CDC, in 2009, blacks accounted for 48% of reported AIDS cases. The number of black male HIV/AIDS cases reported through 2009 was three times higher than cases for HIV/AIDS among white males. Among black females compared to white females, the rate was12 times higher. For the Hispanic population, the number of cases for both genders increased to 18%.

How is our community contracting and spreading the HIV/AIDS virus?

According to the consensus studies done by the Department of Health, the following numbers were collected along gender lines:

For males in the Partnership 6 populations:

  • 67% of the reported cases of AIDS and 75% of the reported cases of HIV were males who were engaged in homosexual relationships.
  • 21% of the reported cases of AIDS and 16% of the reported cases of HIV were males who were engaged in heterosexual relationships.
  • 7% of the reported cases of AIDS and 5% of the reported cases of HIV were males who were injecting drug users.
  • 4% of the reported cases of AIDS and 4% of the reported cases of HIV were males involved in both homosexual relationships and were injecting drug users.

For females in the Partnership 6 populations:

  • 81% of the reported cases of AIDS and 76% of the reported cases of HIV were women engaged in heterosexual relationships.
  • 18% of the reported cases of AIDS and 22% of the reported cases of HIV were women who were injected drug users.

Knowing the statistics is important and helpful. The next step is to take the information and put it to good use – to identify the communities, and to advocate and educate about the dangers of contracting and spreading the virus. HIV/AIDS information should be distributed in schools and sex education classes, and community leaders should be aware of the risks and needs in their own communities. There may not be a cure for AIDS, but there is certainly is a way to prevent the spread of it.

To learn more about health disparities in our communities and what the Health Coalition is doing to help, check out our website by clicking here: Hillsborough Health Equity Coalition.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Census Bureau

The Florida Department of Health

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Baby-Friendly Hillsborough County

The benefits of breast feeding are well documented: healthier babies, healthier moms and a bonding experience between mother and child. Recent research shows that 75 percent of new moms start out breast feeding their newborns, but quit by the time their baby is six months old.

Making it Easier on Moms

Breastfeeding advocates say a drop off in the initial number moms who choose to breastfeed may be due in part to a lack of support from hospitals and the community in general. They feel new mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed by making it more acceptable to do in public. The more at ease you are when you nurse, the better the experience will be for you and your baby.

Finding the right place to spend quality time with your child can be tricky, especially if it makes others uncomfortable. Earlier this year, a Tampa mother made local news when officials at her daughter’s elementary school asked her to nurse her toddler in private. She was offended by the suggestion that breastfeeding was something dirty or not fit for public exposure, so she brought the issue in front of the school board. A federal law signed into effect in 1999 gives permission for a woman to breast feed her child in public on federal property. Florida state law says something similar, allowing women to nurse in public anywhere they would have the right to be if not breastfeeding.

Talk to Your Employer

Going back to work after maternity leave? You’re not alone. More than 50 percent of new moms return to work after giving birth. It might be helpful to let your boss know that you plan to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Many companies are more than willing to accommodate breaks in your schedule. You can also bring a letter from your pediatrician saying your doctor recommends continued breastfeeding.

Many businesses in Tampa offer on-site child care, which allows mothers the convenience of not having to pump. But for nursing moms who do have to pump, experts recommend keeping on schedule with what your baby’s eating habits are during a normal day. The less you pump, the more your supply of breast milk will dwindle.

Privacy, please

If you’re uncomfortable nursing in public, there are lots of locations around Hillsborough County that offer a more secluded experience. Most malls like University Mall have breastfeeding lounges for a relaxing and more private environment to breastfeed. If you can’t find a private spot, here are some tips to make the experience less public:

  • Maternity stores sell breastfeeding tops that make it easy to be fashionable and discreet
  • Slings make it easy for you to nurse without anyone knowing
  • At the pool or beach: drape a towel over your shoulder
  • Be confident: Your own body language will put others around you at ease


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