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Editorial: Vigilant neighborhood watch helps stop crime

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Last month, the sheriff’s office made arrests at an underage drinking party because a neighbor had called in to report that teens were walking the neighborhood and throwing eggs at houses. That tip led the officers to the teens and then to the party.

This is an example of how vigilance by residents can help police both in preventing crime and helping officers make arrests.

Police officers can’t be everywhere all the time, so it’s up to neighbors to watch out for each other and to call police when they see something out of the ordinary.

For example, about 20 residents of the Carefree subdivision in the Center Grove area have met monthly for nearly a year as part of Carefree Crime Watch. Their goal is to reduce crime by watching for unfamiliar vehicles and people in the area and educating neighbors about what they can do to prevent robberies and other crimes from happening to them.

The group has an email list of about 200 residents from Carefree North and South and is working to add members from all the homes. Email alerts from the team’s leaders will warn residents about unlicensed peddlers selling door-to-door, a burglary at a neighbor’s house or descriptions of people or cars to look for if a crime has occurred.

The goal would be to get other neighbors paying attention if a crime is happening or has happened, so they can call police quickly if they spot something and also warn the rest of the neighborhood, member Angie Stone said.

For example, in a May email, a resident spotted police cars in the neighborhood and asked for details, and the Carefree Crime Watch let its members know that houses had been broken into on Primrose Court and Lazy and Leisure lanes and asked residents to look out for a dark-colored car.

“We don’t want something to happen and then start something,” group chairman Jess Carrasquillo said. “We want to be proactive and make our neighborhood a better place before a catastrophe happens.”

Burglary suspects are often caught because a neighbor noticed them, and crime watch groups provide residents with training to know what to look for, Sheriff Doug Cox said.

“It’s just extra eyes out there. From my experience, the neighbors are going to catch some of the things going on before we will,” Cox said.

For example, if it looks like someone is moving but the house isn’t for sale or if other neighbors know nothing about it, a resident should contact the police and the property owner.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office suggests residents look out for children and teens walking through neighborhoods and looking into windows, backyards and cars, vehicles driving slowly with their lights off, parked cars with one or more people who could be watching houses and people hauling valuables from a house when no is home.

Cox said he has heard residents say they saw a crime happening but weren’t sure what was going on and didn’t want to bother the sheriff’s office.

“They’re never bothering us because we’re open 24/7/365, just like the convenience stores,” he said.

While Crime Watch programs are helpful, individuals need not be a part of an organization to help out. Just keep an eye out on nearby properties, know your neighbors and report any unusual or suspicious activity to the police.

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