Crime stops here — Ferriday organizing Neighborhood Watch

Published 12:04 am Thursday, July 21, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Mike Zimmerman listens as CPSO Chief Investigator Bobby Sheppard speaks about the Ferriday Neighborhood Watch Wednesday afternoon at the Ferriday Arcade Theater.

FERRIDAY — When the Rev. Louis Sklar stood before the crowd of approximately 50 that gathered at the Arcade Theater in Ferriday Wednesday night, he simply asked one question.

“How many people in here have been robbed while living in Ferriday?”

Without hesitation, more than half the crowd raised their hands, further illustrating the problems Ferriday residents are dealing with and the importance of starting the new Neighborhood Watch program.

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“Crime is the reason that no one wants to stay in Ferriday,” Sklar said. “People are afraid to be here, and if we can eliminate crime, we can eliminate fear.”

Sklar and the rest of the members of the Ferriday Community Action Group introduced the Neighborhood Watch program to those in attendance, emphasizing why it is needed and what it is going to take to succeed.

“No matter how good our city officials are and no matter how hard our clubs work to beautify the city, we will never be able to legislate morality or initiative,” Sklar said.

CPSO Chief Investigator Bobby Sheppard addresses Ferriday residents.

Sklar said in order to help get the program started, citizens from all over Ferriday are going to need to be involved and committed to keep the program running.

“We need devoted individuals who want to bring Ferriday back to what it once was,” he said. “We must be able to show up and be there for this to work.”

While the plans aren’t finalized, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Investigator Bobby Sheppard was in attendance to explain to the crowd how the program will work.

“Neighborhood Watch will work anywhere it is set up,” he said. “It just takes participation from the public to be successful.”

Sheppard said the main focus of a Neighborhood Watch program is to create a closer bond between residents and law enforcement officers.

“The most important thing is the commitment between the community and the law enforcement,” he said. “There has to be trust between both entities for this to work.”

Sheppard said Ferriday will have to be mapped out and split into different groups that will be represented by block captains.

A Neighborhood Watch coordinator would also be needed, Sheppard said.

“This person will act as a liaison between the police and the block captains,” he said.

Sheppard said whenever someone in a neighborhood sees a potential problem, they need to first contact the police and then their block captain.

The block captain will then contact the coordinator, Sheppard said.

Ferriday Community Action Group member Liz Brooking said the block captains will be in charge of approximately 10 to 15 houses.

Sheppard said an officer will then be assigned to each neighborhood group, and that officer will be the one the block captains speak with.

Brooking also said it is important to make sure the people selected for block captain and coordinator are trustworthy and the right people for the job.

“We really need to choose carefully if we want things to work out for the best,” she said.

Brooking said all residents participating in the watch need to make sure to list important information such as their phone numbers and addresses to keep the program as efficient as possible.

“We need this information and we promise it will be kept private,” she said. “This is what we need for your protection and your neighbors protection.”

Brooking said while trust among residents and police officers is required, trust among neighbors is also going to be crucial for the success of the program.

“We are going to have to start trusting people, and we can do this by getting to know our neighbors,” she said.

Brooking said it is also imperative that the town look to get more youth involved in the Neighborhood Watch program.

Sheppard said the town is working to get the program finalized, and anyone looking to participate needs to do what they can to get more involvement from the community.

“We are working to organize the neighborhoods into sections and assign the officers, but we also need to continue to get more people,” he said. “We need people to get involved and stay involved, or else this is not going to work.”

Brooking said as the watch program continues to grow, more information such as how to protect your home from crime will be presented to residents to help combat the problems in Ferriday.