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Colonial solutions may aid today’s woes

Duncan Park neighbors have married the anti-social media that modern technology has birthed and the closeness required in colonial times.

The offspring of the merger is the Neighborhood Watch group of today, not yesterday.

And tomorrow’s result is likely to be a good one.

Rod and Cheri Sommer and Priester Byrne have worked together since July to reinvent the Duncan Park Neighborhood Watch. They share information and organize meetings through a Facebook page.

But they haven’t abandoned the face-to-face time necessary to make such a crime prevention program effective.

Neighborhood Watch is a national program that got its start in 1972. Sheriffs and police chiefs from around the country were seeking ways to get citizens involved in crime prevention, according to information provided by the National Crime Prevention Council.

The National Sheriffs’ Association sponsored the program on a national level, and local agencies still coordinate efforts in big and small cities everywhere.

But the NCPC says Neighborhood Watch traces its true roots back to colonial America.

Alone in a brave new world, the first Americans didn’t bring the British police with them. Protection instead came through night watchmen who patrolled the streets.

Hundreds of years later, Natchez, like communities everywhere, finds itself with more criminals than policemen.

Though a thorough look at the effectiveness of local law enforcement and the judicial system is in order, we’ll never live in a society in which law enforcement officers out number the bad guys.

So, if we treasure our safety and security, it’s time to reconsider those night watchmen.

From time to time in the last 10 years, Natchez’s neighborhoods have worked together to prevent and punish crimes. A string of home-invasion burglaries in 2007-2008 put everyone on edge and had neighbors watching out for neighbors.

But consistent, committed partnerships are desperately needed to put a dent into area crimes.

The Duncan Park group has set forth an attainable model. The organizers have devoted time — something too many of us would rather not give — but tools such as Facebook and e-mail have made communication less time consuming than they would have been 20 years ago.

Police officers shouldn’t be tasked with preventing all crime. Instead, their role is largely reactionary.

It’s us — the people — who can handle prevention.

The CPCC says, “Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.”

Our tendency these days is to live a bit of an anti-social life.

After work, we head to the house, poke around on the computer, watch some TV and spend time with close family.

Rarely do we check on the neighbors.

You can close out the world if you’d like, but you can’t close out the criminals.

So if you are worried about an increase in crime or the safety of your property or family, think of the night watchmen.

Knock on your neighbor’s door, and begin a conversation that could lead to a Neighborhood Watch today and a safer tomorrow.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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