Increasing crime in our communities have put more pressure on local police, who are struggling with limited resources, staffing and other issues that impair their ability to effectively respond to calls for help. At times, the number of emergency calls coming in to local police, sheriff and state officers’ headquarters can be overwhelming. Blame it on a full moon or whatever, law enforcement in our supposedly sleepy part of the world sometimes spend an entire shift or two in answering calls for everything from theft to roadside assistance.
That’s why the establishment of Neighborhood Watch groups around the area assist police in many ways, especially in rural areas. A Neighborhood Watch doesn’t take action when a member spots criminal activity in progress; he or she calls the appropriate agency and alerts officers to what’s going on. The action helps prevent a crime from occurring, or at least provides information that can help solve a crime. It’s a concept that’s been around for awhile, but remains as viable and useful in keeping our communities safe as when it came into being some 30 or more years ago.
A Neighborhood Watch group meets once a month, basically to review criminal activity and help identify areas where it happens. Working in concert with police or the sheriff’s office, which have an officer in attendance providing an update on what’s happened in the past month, members know where to concentrate their observance skills. Again, members do not intervene when something shady is found. They contact the police or sheriff and inform them about what they’re seeing. If the Neighborhood Watch member has a phone camera and can record an image of the suspected criminal act or even provide a shot of the license plate of the vehicle apparently used by the miscreants, all the better. But members are not required to get involved beyond those actions; authorities are as concerned with their safety as they are with that of the general public. Neighborhood Watch members are the eyes and ears of the community.
Full disclosure time: I am a member of the Crime Watch in my community and have been since its reorganization last summer. I was moved when elderly neighbors of ours had their car stolen from them for no reason other than its eventual destruction by fire when it was found. I heard the frustration in the voice of a Gallia County deputy who swiftly responded on a holiday weekend to the attempted vandalism of the entrance to a local business, with robbery apparently the leading motive. The community’s concern for the safety of its citizens and children because of brazen drug trafficking took on an urgency. It was time to act, and a call to revive the Crime Watch was welcomed. I believe I can say that it has helped our village, and it looks to do the same for the townships it seeks to serve.
So yes, I think Neighborhood Watch, Crime Watch or whatever you want to call it, is a good idea. It’s been an effective tool in the areas where such organizations have existed for decades, some the subject of articles I produced back in my reporting days. A Neighborhood Watch for Gallipolis seeks new members and its request for help should be heeded by citizens. Its existence in town is just as critical as its work in the county: it helps get the job of law enforcement and justice done.
In Gallia, Neighborhood Watch was a priority for Sheriff Joe Browning during his recent tenure. His successor, from all indications, appears to agree. But Neighborhood Watch is not something limited to Gallia County or Ohio in general; it’s a national movement that only asks you to perform a basic function, and that’s to get involved, know your community and do what you can to maintain its standing as a great place to live.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.