Morgantown couple finds safety in watch program
NATCHEZ — D.W. “Sonny” Daniels Jr. and his wife, Edra, have lived in their home in the Foresite subdivision in Morgantown for 53 years.
When their neighborhood began changing — as most of them do through the years, the Danielses said — they were moved to do something to better the place they have lived and loved for so long.
Enter Neighborhood Watch
The Danielses have been involved with the Morgantown Neighborhood Watch group since its onset, approximately 2010, serving as co-captains and captains and all-around volunteers.
“Since we’ve been having our (Neighborhood Watch) meetings, crime has gone down about 100 percent,” Sonny Daniels said. “We don’t have much of a problem anymore.”
The Morgantown Neighborhood Watch group meets the second Monday of each month in the fellowship hall at the Church of God of Prophecy, 10 Myrtle Drive. The watch group is open to residents of all subdivisions in Morgantown, but is mostly attended by 15 to 20 faithful, depending on the weather, from the Foresite neighborhood.
“Ms. Courtney Taylor with the sheriff’s office has been wonderful. She’s a fine young lady. She’s one of the reason’s we’re still together. She makes up all of our signs and puts them up,” said
Sonny Daniels, who will turn 80 in October. “We’ll have guest speakers. The sheriff will come speak to us and local fire protection people come and speak with us.”
Edra Daniels, 76, handles refreshments.
“We put a little basket in the middle of the table — somebody suggested this — and people drop a dollar or so in it. We collect it and I take it and by cookies and drinks and Sonny makes coffee,” Edra Daniels said. “It’s a relaxing time. We enjoy it.”
‘You need to know your neighbors’
The best thing about Neighborhood Watch, the couple said, is getting the opportunity to better know their neighbors. The group has developed into more than one that simply keeps an eye out for suspicious activity.
“We visited a lady yesterday who normally comes to our meetings. My wife and I walk, and we stopped in and she has been sick,” Sonny Daniels said. “We just wanted to check in with her, and I think it meant a lot to her that we did.”
On Saturday, some of the Neighborhood Watch participants met at one neighbor’s house to cut down a tree that was leaning on it.
“We’re trying to help some of the elderly people in the neighborhood who need a hand,” he said. “Our next move is to try to improve the beauty of our subdivision. We want to help people get their yards kept good and houses painted. Maybe we can help each other in doing that.”
The Watch group has already outfitted houses in the neighborhood with reflective numbers to make it easier for law enforcement and emergency workers to locate individual homes.
Sonny Daniels has become an expert at bicycle tire repair, thanks to relationships formed via Neighborhood Watch.
“I help the kids with their bicycles and pump air in tires. Doing that gives me a chance to relate to them about Neighborhood Watch,” he said. “We treat people like we like to be treated, and it’s not just my wife and I. Everybody is concerned with it.”
This summer, the Watch group hopes to have a block party of sorts in hopes of getting the neighborhood togetherness message to children there.
“We’re going to try to get the children involved and have them help to pick up yards,” Edra Daniels said. “We may have a block party. Nothing fancy, just hot dogs and things like that for the kids. We need to get them involved. I have stood at our door and watched a group of children walking in the street and one of them drinking a bottle of water and then just pitch that water bottle in someone’s yard. That’s part of Neighborhood Watch, too, letting everyone know we’re all responsible.
“You need to know your neighbors. We still don’t know all of them, but we want to know them just to speak to them and be friendly. We want to be a friendly neighborhood. You can’t get into their personal stuff, and you don’t want to. But we have formed some good friendships,” she said. “You know, we are a mixed neighborhood, and Neighborhood Watch has helped us all to get to know each other. God made us all and we all have to realize that. The quicker we realize that, the better for all of us.”
‘It’s changed the whole neighborhood.’
Monroe Sago is captain of the Broadmoor Neighborhood Watch. His group meets the third Thursday of each month at the Broadmoor Utilities Community Center, 61 E. Wilderness Road in Natchez.
What started with a group of 15 to 20 people about eight years ago has grown to one with a monthly attendance of 75-plus.
“After we spring ahead each year, and it’s lights out later, the older people will come out to the meetings,” said Sago, who has been involved with the group since its inception.
Sago said the Neighborhood Watch group has made a major difference in life in the Broadmoor area.
“The difference is great. We don’t have loud music like it used to be. We don’t have the drug activities like it used to be. We don’t have obstructing traffic in the road like it used to be. It’s been really wonderful. It’s changed the whole neighborhood,” he said.
The Broadmoor Neighborhood Watch meetings have an agenda that typically includes discussion about how neighbors can watch out for themselves and others. Neighbors also have an opportunity to air their concerns, Sago said.
“We’ll talk about things like how to keep the bushes cutback around your house. We’ll talk about the loose dogs in the neighborhood and what to do about that. We’ll talk about the kids in the neighborhood and what we should be on the lookout for. We try to find out if people in the neighborhood are having a particular problem. And we urge people, when they come to the next meeting, to bring their neighbor with them” he said.
“Mostly, Neighborhood Watch has given the power back to the residents of the neighborhood. We have more power now than we used to have. If people who live here see something wrong, they aren’t going to keep it to themselves. The sheriff will know about it.”