'Omaha Cares' initiative aims to raise neighborly safety

by James Fogarty, Fogarty Creative Group | August 05, 2008

Night Out information

Click here to learn more about National Night Out Against Crime, which is tonight. Click here to downloard an English version of the "Omaha Cares -- Vigilance Tips" card and here to download a Spanish version.

Metro area residents might not be their 'neighbors' keepers' but a little vigilance can go a long way to improving community safety.

That's the belief of the Neighborhood Center (NC), which launched a special public awareness campaign on July 28 in concert with the mayor's office, fire, police and a host of public service organizations and neighborhood associations.

The 'Omaha Cares' initiative was developed in response to an unfortunate incident last winter when the untimely death of a single parent also resulted in the death of her child, who was too young to fend for himself. Since then, several similar incidents have resulted in "near misses," said Ron Abdouch, executive director.

"We're not asking people to be intrusive or to violate privacy, but there are lots of ways that relatives, friends and neighbors can help sometimes-vulnerable people," Abdouch said. "That's the crux of the Omaha Cares initiative -- communicating vigilance tips to everyone who might need help and to those who are available to help in emergencies."

Tom O'Connor, senior associate director for public affairs at UNMC and a member of the Neighborhood Center board of directors, said the initiative is important for the entire Omaha community.

"The tips that are provided are easy to implement and just make good sense," O'Connor said. "I would encourage all employees at UNMC, The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC Physicians to get involved in this program. It could truly make a difference."

Mayor Mike Fahey is fully supportive of the effort.

"We have always believed that strong neighborhoods are the glue that holds this community together," Fahey said. "The Omaha Cares initiative will surely improve safety and could reduce or eliminate unfortunate incidents such as those that have occurred in recent months."

"The tips that are provided are easy to implement and just make good sense."

Tom O'Connor

The Neighborhood Center has developed and published, through a grant from Wells Fargo Bank, an "Omaha Cares -- Vigilance Tips" card that will be passed out by first responders and other groups to communicate:
  • How and when to check on relatives, friends or neighbors;
  • Ideas for addressing 'vulnerability' issues in neighborhoods, including renters as well as homeowners;
  • How families and friends can develop emergency plans, encourage people who are at-risk to ask for help, yet still respect privacy.

More than 10,000 of the vigilance tips cards have been printed in English and Spanish versions. Many will be distributed during National Night Out events being held around the city tonight. The cards also will be made available by groups partnering with the Neighborhood Center on the Omaha Cares initiative.

"We need to do more for people who are at risk for personal, health and safety-related issues," Abdouch said. "And plans should be in place for others who face sudden emergencies. We can do our share beginning at the neighborhood level, but there is a role for the corporate and faith communities and others."

Judy Johns, crime prevention coordinator for the Omaha Police Department, believes that this new initiative will be effective.

"The involvement of caring citizens can eliminate minutes and even hours from the emergency response process," said Johns, who also coordinates National Night Out activities.

For more information, contact Abdouch at 402-561-7582.