Students wearing yellow reflective vests armed with flashlights will hit the streets in the Langdon area Thursday night as part of the first Langdon Street Neighborhood Watch in recent memory.
Co-chair of the watch and UW sophomore Johnny Koremenos said the program started in 2007, but in recent years hasn’t had the participation it needed to stay going strong.
Koremenos’ fellow co-chair and UW senior Roz Koff decided to jumpstart the organization because of the high amount of crime in the neighborhood.
Since last spring, Koff and Koremenos worked with UW’s Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council to establish requirements for participation among UW’s Greek community.
Koremenos said support for the program has been overwhelming, both within and outside of the Greek community.
Currently, each fraternity and sorority is required to patrol a set route around the neighborhood from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. one night a semester. Patrols run Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Unlike SAFE nighttime services, which require students to call for walkers, the Langdon Street Neighborhood Watch will consist of entire fraternity and sorority houses – many boasting over 100 members – roving the neighborhood, Koremenos said.
“We’ll split into smaller groups so when you’re walking home at night you know there is someone out there in case you need help,” Koremenos said.
When the program first started, Koremenos said volunteers helped students who passed out on lawns or in ditches. They would help students who thought they saw suspicious behavior.
For students, simply knowing people are looking out for them will help them feel safe, he said.
“We’re there, we’re sober, we’ll have money…so if you need a cab, we can call a cab,” he said.
In addition, the group has been working with Madison Police officer Rene Gonzalez, who Koff said knows where the problem areas of the neighborhood are thanks to his extensive experience patrolling the Langdon neighborhood.
Koremenos sees the watch as a way not only to keep the community safe, but also to bring the Greek community together.
“A lot of times I feel like there’s a lot of animosity between the houses and stuff like that so if we can come together…to make this area safer, it’s a worthy cause,” he said.
A freshman when the watch first started, Koff said the initiative excited the neighborhood, building spirit on the street.
So far, students are just as enthusiastic about the watch’s revival, with the group boasting more than 800 members in their Facebook group “Lights on Langdon,” Koff said.
UW sophomore Rachel Gillett said she thinks the watch is a good way for the Greek community to show the rest of campus how much they care about the UW community.
“A lot of people judge us because they think that we’re paying for our friends or that we’re joining for the wrong reasons,” Gillett said. “This is a way to get involved…hopefully they’ll see the Greek system as a group of people who…care.”
UW sophomore Madeleine Goldman added the time commitment is not a big deal, especially considering the large number of people in a given sorority or fraternity.