With growing crime rates and limited resources in law enforcement agencies, many cities and towns are encouraging residents to participate in neighborhood watch programs.
Local business owner Keith Howard, a former state trooper and sheriff’s chief deputy, is working with local municipalities, civic clubs and homeowner’s associations to offer organizational information about forming Neighborhood Watch programs throughout Bulloch County.
The Town of Register recently held a Neighborhood Watch workshop during a community cleanup day, and Mayor Barbara Rushing said the turnout was positive.
“I really like the idea of the Neighborhood Watch,” she said, adding that residents who attended appeared very interested. “Everyone was attentive and asked questions. I believe it's an excellent program. Nowadays, it takes more than our local law enforcement to keep our communities safe. All law enforcement agencies are short staffed and can only cover so much.”
Howard said he realized a need for such programs in the area, and recalled an incident a few months ago in Statesboro where a tip from an observant citizen resulted in Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies interrupting a burglary in progress at a Northside Drive East business. Two men were arrested.
“Law enforcement can’t do it all by themselves,” he said. “You have to get the community involved.”
He has already set up another informational session in Brooklet, and a meeting with Portal residents is in the works.
Brooklet Police Officer Dewey Hunt said the City of Brooklet will hold a community gathering June 14 at the Randy Newman Community Center, with a time to be announced later.
“We will talk about the Neighborhood Watch program, community involvement, and will be grilling,” he said. “We want the community to assist us in doing everything we can to keep everyone safe. This will help support regular officers and (monitor community activity) on a 24/7 basis.”
Portal Police Chief Jason Sapp said he believes his community will be receptive to the program and he is working with Howard to schedule a similar meeting.
“I think it is a good idea,” he said. “It is always good to have a Neighborhood Watch. It is extra sets of eyes and ears, and if you see something, you can say something.”
Howard offers a Powerpoint presentation that outlines the benefits of the program, as well as lessons on how to be observant.
“When people are on their daily walk, they can learn how to observe different things and look for suspicious incidents or people,” he said.
The program also helps people “get to know your neighbors better,” he said.
“As neighbors, we really should be keeping an eye open for any suspicious behavior around us anyway,” Rushing said. “But having the Neighborhood Watch program will alert others coming through that we look out for each other.”
Communities that have the program will post signs announcing that they have the Neighborhood Watch, letting visitors (especially those with ill intent) that residents are keeping an eye out. Howard said he helps communities obtain the signs. His program is free of charge and Neighborhood Watch associations require no fees, he said.
During the presentation, Howard also talks about the importance of fire safety and the need for working smoke alarms.
The Neighborhood Watch program is available to any community group, neighborhood or homeowner’s association, civic club, church group or entity, he said.
For more information, contact Howard at 912-682-2723.