By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD News & Journal Editor
In the October 3, 2019 edition of The News & Journal, an invitation was extended to community members to attend a meeting regarding the formation of a ‘Neighborhood Watch’ program in Shinnston. That meeting was held in Council Chambers on Wednesday, October 9th with standing room only. Shinnston Chief of Police Jon Harbert was not only appreciative of the response but surprised to see the great interest shown.
In addition to Chief Harbert, who conducted the meeting, other local law enforcement representatives included Deputy Chief Robert Ryan, Officer Josh Nield, PRO Officer Scott Vinson, and Harrison County Deputy Jay Brewer. City Manager Chad Edwards, several members of Shinnston City Council, and nearly three dozen citizens were also present to learn more about the program.
A “Neighborhood Watch” is exactly what its name implies – a group of people living in the same neighborhood area who have the desire to help make their neighborhoods safer by working together, in conjunction with local law enforcement, to reduce crime and enjoy a greater sense of security. It simulates homeland security at the ‘local’ level.
Police officers, even in a small community, cover a wide area so volunteer citizens act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police department, alerting them of concerns, suspicious activities, and neighborhood issues. The ‘watch’ volunteers act as partners with law enforcement. It was stressed, however, that community members should never try to take action on their observations or confront anyone, but instead report what they see to officers who are trained in how to handle these situations.
Obviously, more citizens are encouraged to become involved because the more eyes and ears that are being watchful, the safer the neighborhoods will remain. Those who have already expressed an interest in joining the watch program may call on other neighbors to recruit their participation as well.
Chief Harbert said, “Ideally, I would like to see every neighborhood in the city limits and within our jurisdiction become involved – West Side, East Shinnston, Pleasant Hill, the area around the football field, the development behind the Shinn House, etc.”
He also noted that the city is working on remarking boundaries and some annexation which will be an asset to law enforcement when calls come in.
“There are areas within the community where some residents may be in the city limits and their neighbors may be out of city limits,” he added. “It can make it difficult to know if the county or the city should be contacted to respond. But City Council is working right now to straighten out these jagged boundaries in order to eliminate this problem.”
Several residents from Stadium Drive were in attendance and have reported several issues in their vicinity. They were in agreement that they would be willing to pay extra service fees in order to have a more fully staffed police department.
Others in attendance reported knowing of drug activities in their neighborhoods. It was clear that citizens see a need for the ‘watch’ groups and are willing to participate for the betterment of the community.
Chief Harbert offered everyone a Neighborhood Watch Manual which explained more details about the program. Signs were also given to those who wanted them that would denote their neighborhood as a ‘watch’ area.
Neighborhood Watch meetings will be held monthly and additional areas of concern will be discussed. It is likely that the next meeting will be hosted in a larger space to better accommodate everyone. Look for further notices announcing the date, time and place of the next meeting.