A Little Rock Police Department crime prevention initiative is expanding into new territory.

Neighborhood Crime Watch groups use collaboration among neighbors and police to improve security. On Wednesday, the South Main Street Business and Merchants Alliance voted to create the city's first business-exclusive Neighborhood Crime Watch.

"It's very important to us that we provide a safe, fun environment for everybody," said John Brandenberger, Chief Operations Officer for Community Bakery.

The bakery has been a staple on South Main (SoMa) Street since 1952. Though Brandenberger says crime is not a major issue on SoMa, he acknowledges the need for preventative efforts like a Crime Watch group.

"Crime is always going to be present," he said. "I think what really defines a neighborhood is how they handle it, how they process that, and what steps they take to make it as crime-free as possible."

As the program launches on SoMa, new neighborhood watch signs will be posted between 12th and 17th Streets. The Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) also suggests business owners establish a formal contact group (text or email) and discuss crime during its meetings as needed.

"We'd rather be proactive rather than reactive," Brandenberger said. "We just thought it was a way for us to show our collaborative skills and how we can impact not only Main Street but be better serving to the rest of the community."

The police department credits residential Neighborhood Crime Watch programs with reducing crime and improving officer response times through proactive policing. Laura Martin, LRPD Neighborhood Watch and Public Affairs coordinator is hopeful those benefits will extend into the commercial sector.

"I expect that the SoMa District will be the model. They will be the pioneers of all the business districts having Crime Watch," Martin said.

She urges other businesses, particularly those in shopping centers, to consider forming Neighborhood Crime Watch Groups.

"Those are the locations that one person can look out for the next and it be very beneficial for law enforcement as well as for their businesses," Martin said.

Anyone interested in forming a Neighborhood Crime Watch program for their residential or commercial neighborhood can call LRPD Public Affairs at 501-918-5358

"We pray there is no crime to watch, but it is just being proactive -- having that liaison with the Little Rock Police Department to build those relationships. And that's the main thing we want to do with our programs going forward," Martin said.