The Union County Sheriff’s Office is breathing fresh air into the neighborhood watch program.
Matthew Warden, lieutenant of support services at the Sheriff’s Office, has worked with Deputy Rich Crabtree since November to spread the word about building interest in the neighborhood watch program in various villages and townships the Sheriff’s Office covers. So far, they’ve been able to get one started in Jerome Township, and other villages and townships are considering it.
“It never really went away,” Warden said. “It’s more so to light a fire under the residents in the county to make the whole concept of us to get the information out to the people rather than just sending a media release.”
He said the program is not a vigilante program, as “it’s about awareness, talking to your neighbors and keeping your eyes open.”
Milford Center Village Council Member Ron Payne said he remembers the neighborhood watch being in the village. He said the program created “call trees,” where neighbors would call others in a chain to communicate anything they had seen.
“It was a way to communicate concerns, good news and bad news through a telephone tree,” Payne said.
He said the Sheriff’s Office visited a village council meeting in December to “reinvigorate the neighborhood watch,” as it has “fallen into disarray.”
Warden said the neighborhood watch is a good way to not only report suspicious activity in one’s neighborhood, but to also build relationships within the community.
“It brings your neighbors closer together,” he said. “They talk more and they meet on a monthly basis.”
He said the neighborhood watch encourages residents to report suspicious activity to the Sheriff’s Office, and to also communicate with neighbors about what they witnessed.
He said the neighborhood watch also gets interested residents to attend monthly meetings, where the watch captain could host a cookout or other activity. He said that leads to neighbors getting to know each other better.
In these meetings, Warden said the Sheriff’s Office would be guests to events held by the watch captain, and would be invited to show its K-9 units or host informational presentations.
Payne agreed the neighborhood watch was a way for Milford Center to “feel more connected,” and for there to “be more community.”
“I supposed it could create a feeling of safety, but I never had that feeling it was done to make me feel safer,” Payne said.
Warden said he felt the villages and townships he visited appreciated what he had to say. He said there were positive comments made about the program at the meetings he attended.
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