Neighborhood watch proposed in SalinevilleBy Jo Ann Bobby Gilbert (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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SALINEVILLE With finances making it impossible to hire additional officers, police Chief Tim LaClair is looking for as much help as he can get to keep the village a safe place to live.
At the kickoff of a proposed neighborhood watch program Wednesday, Mayor Dave Berta and LaClair welcomed about two dozen citizens, saying they were surprised and encouraged by the turn-out, which they said included representatives from most areas of town.
"We're not going to be able to hire more police officers. We will need some more eyes and ears," Berta told those who attended.
"Finances are bad and one policeman can't be everywhere. I need your help," LaClair admitted. "There are more of you than there are of us."
Currently, the department has three full-time officers, including LaClair, and has the use of some part-time officers, but Village Council's finance committee has been pondering cutting the part-timers.
LaClair said the three basic goals of any neighborhood watch program are for neighbors to help watch each others' properties and report suspicious activity, to increase awareness and to encourage citizens to cooperate in reporting crimes.
He said a cooperative effort between the police department, government officials and residents will have a greater impact than any lone police officer or department.
LaClair said the idea is not for residents to do his job.
"I'm not asking you to be the police department. I'm asking you to be citizens working with the police department," he said, pointing out, "You know who belongs in your neighborhood more than I do. If you see someone in your neighbor's yard, call the police. You're not going out confronting anyone; that's my job."
While the actual details of the watch group are forthcoming, LaClair said it is "a very simple process," with residents asked to report any suspicious activity to the police department, which he said can be done anonymously with a phone call.
"You call me and you'll have a cruiser in your area immediately. We want Salineville to be safe and want it to prosper," LaClair said.
Glancing around the Kiwanis building, LaClair pointed out, "Look at this, 25 additional sets of eyes."
The chief will serve as the liaison between the police department and community and said the program will be implemented in phases, starting with an order for four signs he planned to place Thursday at a cost of $33 each.
Just as a police cruiser patrolling a neighborhood deters crime, LaClair said signs declaring, "We report all suspicious activity" also serve as a deterrent, saying, "It tells them we're not looking the other way anymore, we're calling the police."
He said residents of a block could opt to take up a collection among themselves to purchase a sign for their neighborhood.
Donations for signs will also be accepted by the police chief.
Other plans call for educational programs for children, such as bicycle safety or "stranger danger," according to Berta.
One mother said, "I want my kids safe and, right now, I don't feel it's safe. There's too much crap going on."
LaClair was asked whether implementing the program will attract the county's drug task force back to the village, with one resident saying, "There's a need."
Berta agreed, "It can't hurt." The village currently does not provide an officer to the task force due to financial restraints.
"As it develops, you will see many things transpire," LaClair promised. "Soon, there won't be anywhere in the community where someone isn't watching."
He and Berta encouraged those in attendance to speak with their neighbors about getting involved and urge them to attend the next meeting, to be held in about a month.
Packets of emergency information will be provided to residents at that meeting.