Eyes, ears prove as crimestoppers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Criminals are always on the lookout for easy targets where the risk of detection is minimal and the profits are high.

Many times they strike residences where no one is home – honest people are off at work.

However, there is a safe way to deter crime and any Gates County citizen can take part in bringing thefts to a halt in their neighborhood.

Frank Harrigan, a sheriff’s deputy in Gates County, normally serves as a court bailiff, but recently he took on another responsibility for the sheriff and local citizens.

Harrigan was named as Coordinator of the Neighborhood Watch Program for Gates County. As such, he has the responsibility of educating the public about how to bring a halt to rural crimes.

A former Marine Corps Military Police Officer, Harrigan is experienced in law enforcement and he recently completed training that will enhance his services in Gates County.

He is pleased to be serving as the Neighborhood Watch Program Coordinator and will be available for his first neighborhood meeting at 7 p.m., May 18, at the Gates County Courthouse in Gatesville.

Heather Hart, a resident of Hazelton Road in the Drum Hill community, will also be present at that meeting. She contacted Sheriff Edward &uot;Ed&uot; Webb to request a meeting to learn more about the Neighborhood Watch Program and the sheriff made the arrangements with Harrigan.

As Sheriff Webb said, the Sunbury neighborhood established a Neighborhood Watch Program several months ago and it has proven successful in reducing crimes, mostly break-ins and burglaries, in that area. He said the program could prove successful across the county if people are willing to get involved with their community and neighbors.

Hart has invited the residents of Drum Hill and Willeyton to this particular meeting, but others who may be interested should consider attending.

At these meetings, citizens are given the tools needed to become a crime fighter in their neighborhoods; instructions in how to watch over each other’s property and how to develop a system for recognizing legitimate neighborhood vehicles. They are also given literature further explaining all they can do to safely become an extension of law enforcement – the eyes and ears, if you please.

Once the neighbors decide to form a Neighborhood Watch, they may obtain, from the sheriff’s office, signs to put up in the neighborhoods, marking them as being a crime watch area.

I saw the Neighborhood Watch programs become huge successes in Suffolk, Va. In one particular area that had once been a serenely beautiful area of old, established homes, was turned into a place where the older residents were afraid to sit on their front porches in fear of shots being fired and wild youth running through the neighborhood.

Cars were vandalized, homes spay painted with obscene language while residents were away, and burglaries were abundant. Once shots were fired through a bedroom window, the neighbors banded together, telling Suffolk Police they wanted to form a crime watch team.

The neighbors decided to hold a meeting and officers arrived, loaded with information. The rest, as they say, was history.

Crime came to a screeching halt in that neighborhood. Once the rest of Suffolk read about the success of the Neighborhood Watch Program there, every area of the city wanted to join the crime fighting team.

You don’t need anything more than a pencil and paper and a telephone to become one of the best crime fighters for law enforcement.

As Harrigan noted, &uot;Observe, record and report what you have seen. That’s the best way to fight crime in any neighborhood.&uot;

Any motivated citizen who wants to take control of the safety of their neighborhood should attend the Neighborhood Watch Program meetings and having seen them in action, I would urge you to be present at 7 p.m., May 18, at the courthouse.