Thursday, March 13, 2008

Morningside police to establish community watch

Chief sees program as way to strengthen ties with 1,300-resident town

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Residents and police in Morningside will soon work together to curb auto theft and other crimes.

For the first time, the town will implement a community watch so residents can help the seven-member police department patrol the neighborhood.

‘‘When I became chief three and a half years ago, there was no interaction between the community and the police,” Morningside Police Chief Amos Damron said. ‘‘We have to reach out to the community. Without citizens helping out, it’s tough to enforce the law.”

Plans are in preliminary stages and details are being worked out, but Damron said he’d like to see the watch up and running as soon as possible. While they have not yet met with the community, police plan to meet with residents at a future council meeting to find volunteers and proceed from there.

According to Damron, there were seven auto thefts in Morningside, an incorporated town of six-tenths of a square mile and about 1,300 residents. Although that figure is low in a county with more than 9,000 auto thefts from January to November 2007, Damron said it’s important to keep reducing crime.

Officer Devonna Reddick, who has been with the department for a little more than a month, will lead the watch.

‘‘It’s important for residents to know their city,” Reddick said. ‘‘It’s important to familiarize yourself with who surrounds you.”

Reddick said the preliminary plan is to have residents assigned to watch different parts of the community and report any suspicious activities to police. The residents will act as eyes for police in areas that officers on patrol are not able to cover.

Morningside Mayor Karen Rooker said it has not yet been determined whether residents will actually participate by being out on the streets.

Jay Jenkins, a Morningside resident, said the idea is a good one, in theory.

‘‘I already watch out for my neighbors without the watch,” he said. ‘‘And we all have to work to help each other out. So in that respect I think it’s a good idea.”

Though Jenkins is concerned about the logistics of working the plan out and how much money it might cost taxpayers.

Rooker said the idea was to not only strengthen ties between police and residents, but also to create bonds among the residents themselves.

‘‘A community watch makes neighbors take care of neighbors,” she said. ‘‘We should all be doing anything we can to help each other out.”

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