Neighborhoods urged to form watch groups

Published 12:03 am Sunday, March 15, 2015

NATCHEZ Prior to 2010, Adams County Sheriff’s deputies spent much of their time at work in the Morgantown area.

“A couple of years ago, we were getting a lot of calls out there,” said Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield. “Lots of calls about drug activity, loitering, fast cars driving through the neighborhood.”

Thanks to residents coming together, getting to know one another and working to care for one another through the formation of a Neighborhood Watch program, that’s changed, he said.

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Today, instead of a call every other day, it’s more like a couple of calls a month.

A recent rash of break-ins and burglaries in cars and houses in the Natchez area has renewed interest in Neighborhood Watch programs and other ways residents can protect the  mselves, their families, pets and possessions.

Getting to know one another

Mayfield credits the change in Morgantown to a Neighborhood Watch program developed by residents, particularly those in the Foresite subdivision.

“Almost the whole neighborhood got involved,” Mayfield said. “They put signs in yards, and they stay in touch with each other. And the Neighborhood Watch in Foresite is made up of all manner of people — those who have lived there forever and new residents. They take care of each other. They’ve gotten to know each other. They speak when they see each other now, wave and talk. I use them as a model because they have done so well. Very rarely do we have a problem there now, when before it was every other night.”

Courtney Taylor, public information officer at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, said the “getting to know each other” part of Neighborhood Watch programs is something neighborhoods all over Natchez and Adams County need.

“Neighborhood Watch works to foster relationships and make real neighbors of people who were suspicious of each other. Prior to 2010, before the Morgantown Neighborhood Watch began meeting, particularly in the Foresite subdivision, the neighborhood had changed. Residents who had lived in the neighborhood for 40 years were faced with new families moving in,” she said. “After they formed a Neighborhood Watch, these neighbors were able to put a personality and a heart behind a face. That’s what needs to happen all over Natchez and Adams County. We need to get to know each other and care for one another and love each other. That’s what Neighborhood Watch does.

“All of our Neighborhood Watch programs have helped us so much. Our deputies go to the meetings and the neighbors are also able to put personalities with their faces, too. They get to know us, and they become comfortable in calling us. They know we want them to call us about the littlest thing — anything that’s causing them anxiety. And they know we will respond to the call. It’s our job,” Taylor said.

How Neighborhood Watch works

The Adams County, active Neighborhood Watch programs are at work in the Kingston area, Morgantown, Sibley, Selma and Broadmoor.

“We go in the area and put the word out that we want to start one, or sometimes residents in a neighborhood will contact us,” Mayfield said.

“Our deputies go in, find one person who agrees to be the captain. We let them set their own agenda, meaning how often they want to meet and things like that.”

The captain of the Neighborhood Watch group acts as the recruiter, talking to neighbors, setting up the organizational meeting.

“We go to that meeting, explain what we do, tell them about reports we have coming in from their area, like a rash of car burglaries, for instance,” Mayfield said. “We share information with them, like, ‘Look for this vehicle.’ We train them as to what to look for in their neighborhood. We exchange intelligence. And we listen to them. We want to know what they are seeing and what they are thinking. ”

Mayfield said he and his deputies emphasize to the Neighborhood Watch members they are not to become personally involved when they see something suspicious.

“We constantly tell them, if you see something, don’t confront anyone. It’s dangerous. Get a description of the vehicle. Call it in. Say they are leaving the scene. Give us as much information as possible. Get the tag number if you can, but don’t go out in the street with a pad and pencil. Be the eyes and ears of your neighborhood, but don’t get personally involved,” he said.

Even Neighborhood Watch members who call in with information to the sheriff’s office are not required to give a name.

Mayfield and his deputies urge residents to call their office, even if they aren’t sure what they are seeing is something unlawful.

“A call is not going to inconvenience us. That’s our job. We have officers out there patrolling. If you are looking out your window and see something suspicious, call us,” he said.

‘We need them like they need us.’

Natchez Police Department Chief Daniel White, too, sings the praises of Neighborhood Watch programs.

His department works with four active Neighborhood Watch programs in the city of Natchez. Those are located in Woodlawn, Melrose, Roselawn and West Stiers.

“I would advise residents of any neighborhood to start a Neighborhood Watch program,” White said. “Getting neighbors involved within their community is so very helpful. We need them like they need us.”

White said those in the city seeking to start a Neighborhood Watch program need simply to call the police department.

“Call us at 601-445-5565 and ask for our Jerry Ford or they can call me at 601-445-7530. We will set everything up, come and meet with them, put up signs, do anything we can. Just call us,” White said.