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Vidalia police start watch program

VIDALIA — Vidalia City Hall was standing room only Thursday night for a community action meeting hosted by the Vidalia Police Department.

Officers from the department attended the meeting to give Vidalia residents information on a community watch program the VPD is starting.

Chief Arthur Lewis opened the meeting giving a brief introduction of what the department needs from the community to make the watch program successful.

“We are here to heighten the awareness of all citizens to have a safer community,” he said. “And we can only do this with your help.”

Community involvement was something every officer mentioned as the most important tool to starting a successful watch program.

“This is a new era. The times and the criminal elements are changing. Criminals are getting smarter,” Lewis said. “We need to come together if we want to keep up with them.”

Lewis said he wants the community to know that the VPD is always concerned about the safety and well being of its citizens.

“This is your community and your police department,” he said. “We have an open-door policy at our department and we want to hear your opinions on how we can do things better.”

Lewis said reporting suspicious activity is crucial to helping the police department catch criminals they may not otherwise catch.

“This program is designed to help you recognize things that are out of the ordinary,” he said. “Anything you feel that is different or suspicious in your neighborhood we want you to report.”

Lewis said things like vehicles parked for long periods of time or people walking through neighborhoods looking closely at houses are just a few things for which residents can look.

“We are not asking you to be snitches, we are asking you to be neighbors,” he said.

Officer Craig Sewell also spoke on what citizens can do if they are having problems with loud music or cars driving by their house.

“Do not try and go out and chase them down,” he said. “Call us so we can come and patrol the area, and if it is something that continues to happen try and get some information on their vehicle.”

Officer Gayle Cowan spoke on the progress of the Vidalia chapter of the National Association of Triads Inc.

Cowan said the program has seen success in helping elderly Vidalia residents in their day-to-day lives.

Officer Renda Singleton ended the meeting by asking residents to volunteer to help be a part of the Neighborhood Watch.

“The volunteer is going to be there to strictly keep an eye out for suspicious activity and call the police if they see anything going on,” she said. “We want you to take back the neighborhoods and have control over your area.”

Vidalia resident Calvin Weems said he can’t wait to see the watch program begin.

“I am here to volunteer my services to do whatever I can to help these officers out,” he said. “They are out there dealing with a lot, and every little bit helps.”

Weems said while there may be many residents who are skeptical of the program’s success, he is faithful there will only be good results.

“It may take a while to get everyone use to how it works,” he said. “But I guarantee if both the officers and we as residents hold to our promises, there will be a change in Vidalia.”

Lewis said any resident interested in helping out with the community watch can contact Singleton at the VPD at 318-336-5254.

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