Photographed by Hillary Schave

Madison police officer Emily Samson is redefining Neighborhood Watch with the Good Neighbor Project. Samson began flipping the Neighborhood Watch model when she realized some in the community found it over-vigilant and didn’t agree with its guidelines.

The Good Neighbor Project focuses more on building relationships between neighbors while also partnering with the police.

“It’s not just about watching and being vigilant, it’s about being neighbors,” Samson says of the new project.

Samson started it by hosting monthly Good Neighbor Nights at the Madison Police Department Training Center. But, when she piloted the nights at the Catholic Multicultural Center on the South Side, the project drew a more diverse crowd, helping to chip away at that barrier between the community and the police.

“[Samson] figured out a way to put the heart into Neighborhood Watch and that’s my favorite thing,” says Wendy Reichel, who lives in Midvale Heights. “It doesn’t have to be about crime…it can be just about neighborhood building [and] just taking care of people.”

For 2018, Samson would like to see the project continue to grow and to make it more accessible for all of the city’s neighborhoods.

“I would like to see neighborhoods actually take it on…and help facilitate the growth of the Good Neighbor Project [and] make it look like what it should look like to be successful” on those particular blocks.

– Rae Sanders

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