By Matthew Reitz
Fulton Common Council President Larry Macner is hoping to boost participation in the city’s neighborhood watch groups.
Macner says the city’s neighborhood watch programs have proven to be useful over the years, but could serve the community better if more residents got more involved.
“It would be a better program if more people showed up (for the meetings),” Macner said.
The main function of neighborhood watch programs is to reduce crime by using basic prevention techniques and reporting suspicious activity to the police. Tips from residents often help police respond to crimes, and statistics show increased attention from residents can help prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
“I’d just like to see more awareness so that people know what is going on in the neighborhood,” Macner said.
A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that in the majority of cases, neighborhood watch programs were “associated with a reduction in crime” and “appeared to be effective.”
The concept of a neighborhood watch is nothing new. Their roots can be traced back to the colonial era, when local militias and night watchmen kept watch over their communities in the absence of municipal police forces. Neighborhood watches as we know them today were established in the 1970s in response to law enforcement efforts to involve citizens and address rising crime rates.
The Fulton Police Department encourages local participation in the programs, too. Deputy Chief Thomas Abelgore said neighborhood watch programs give police “an extra set of eyes and ears,” and added that a dedicated group of people in a neighborhood allows police “to have a presence without actually being there.”
“We can’t be everywhere,” Abelgore stated.
The department welcomes the opportunity to talk with residents and share useful information. Abelgore said the department would like to see residents take ownership of their communities, and noted that the city has a tip line, 593-TIPS, that residents can call 24 hours a day to leave anonymous tips.
Macner believes the economy has played a role in driving up the crime rate, but noted Fulton residents can still do their part by participating in neighborhood watch programs to keep their streets safe. Areas with higher crime rates need increased attention, and Macner suggested residents could request increased patrols in certain areas.
Meetings for the Sixth Ward Neighborhood Watch take place on Monday nights at 7 p.m. and typically last for about an hour according to Macner. The meetings are held in the auditorium at the Fulton Education Center on South Fourth Street. The schedule for the Sixth Ward meetings is listed through June 2015 on the city’s website.
Daniel Knopp, Councilor for the Second Ward, also encourages all interested residents to attend meetings for the neighborhood watch. Second Ward Neighborhood Watch meetings take place on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Fulton War Memorial Cafeteria.
By Matthew Reitz