Meridian Star

January 6, 2013

Neighborhood Watch

New program to begin in Northeast area

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Residents tend to hesitate whenever they see something they believe at first glance might be a suspicious activity. Much of the reason behind this hesitation is they don't want to be a burden to law enforcement officers who may be needed somewhere else.

    But the bottom line for law enforcement, according to Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun, is answering calls about suspicious activity and/or suspicious people in a neighborhood, which is a perfectly good reason for making that call to 911.

    "We are on the roads to protect and serve and part of that protection is going to locations where there may be something illegal going on," Calhoun said. "You don't have to wait for gunfire or to see someone leaving a home with an armload of property to call us."

    In fact, law enforcement encourages residents to get involved in what is going on in their neighborhoods. That is why on Tuesday Calhoun will be speaking to a group of residents in the Northeast Lauderdale area about starting up a neighborhood watch program. Rachel Jones, one of the organizers of the group said the meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the Northeast Community Center on Briarwood Road. The meeting, led by Calhoun, will begin at 6 p.m.

    "This watch program will include the Briarwood, Eagle Pointe and surrounding areas," said Jones, who has lived in the Northeast community for the past 15 years and is the secretary for the Northeast Community Club. "The Northeast Community Club is responsible for getting this started. We discussed the idea at our December meeting and even though we feel like we live in a safe neighborhood, we are aware that we may not."

    Calhoun said the training will take about an hour and then there will be an answer session afterward. Some of the points of interest Calhoun will inform the group on will concern how to organize the residents into an effective neighborhood watch group that will keep a close eye on the homes and people in their area. He said the group will learn what to look for and who to call when something is observed.

    "We are not talking about anyone getting closely involved in a situation," Calhoun said. "That is not what we want. We need eyes and ears out there to let us know who, what, when and where, something is happening."

    Calhoun said for the safety of those involved in the program, it is much safer to call 911 and get a deputy headed in their direction rather than for the resident to confront the situation themselves.

    "We are trained to handle these situations so let us do our job." said Calhoun. "But in order for us to do that job as best as we can, getting as much information before we arrive on the scene is a huge advantage to the deputy."

    "The program is for anyone living in the Northeast area," said Jones. "We encourage everyone to get involved in making our community as safe as possible. The club just thought that this would be a service that the Community Club could provide for the Northeast Community."