About 15 area residents, primarily from the Mill Village and Walco neighborhoods just outside Sylacauga city limits, were in attendance to learn about establishing neighborhood watch after a Mill Village resident expressed interest in the program.
“Crime prevention and the safety and security of our citizens and their homes is one of the paramount concerns we have in law enforcement,” Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said. “It’s something we strive to make better.”
Neighborhood watch, he said, is “one of the greatest things we can do” to prevent crime, but there are also steps every individual can take, whether in public or at home, to ward off criminal activity, particularly during the holiday season, he said.
Some tips Kilgore offered are as follows:
• While shopping, use debit or credit cards when possible, and do not flash cash.
• Men should keep their wallet in a coat pocket or other concealed location, and women are advised to carry a purse or wallet tightly under the arm.
• Do not resist a person trying to steal from you, but do remember as many details as you can about them and give that information to law enforcement immediately.
• When shopping, store packages or bags in the trunk of your vehicle or conceal them in the cab.
• Keep car and home doors and windows locked and closed.
• Do not answer the door for a person you do not know, and do not give personal information to someone over the phone.
• Keep a detailed list of valuable possessions along with their serial numbers and photos.
• Do not put a Christmas tree or place gifts in front of a window. “Everybody wants to show of a beautiful Christmas tree,” Kilgore said. “But don’t place it in front of a window where they can smash a window and reach in and snatch your gifts from under it. We answer a bunch of those calls.”
Kilgore said any tool that may draw attention to or make it more difficult for a burglar to enter your home, such as dogs, home alarms, motion-sensor lights and heavy solid doors, is a great deterrent.
“(Burglars) are lazy,” he said. “They’re scared of getting caught; and Lord knows they’re scared of dogs.”
As for neighborhood watch, Haynes explained the five steps to establishing a program (recruit members, meet with law enforcement, develop an action plan, hold regular meetings, implement a phone tree) and answered questions from concerned citizens about when it is appropriate to call police and what rights they have to defend themselves.
Haynes said you can defend yourself and your property, as well as that of others, if you feel your life or another’s life is being threatened; however, calling law enforcement is always best.
“There is no stupid reason to call the police,” he said. “There’s not a bad reason to call and have us come out.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, residents were given an information packet about neighborhood watch. Kilgore said the next steps are for them to gauge interest in their communities, organize watch members and contact the Sheriff’s Office again.
District 5 County Commissioner Greg Atkinson, who requested the meeting on behalf of a resident, said he appreciated the interest shown in this subject.
“We always want to have a safe community and improve our community, and this is one way we can do that,” he said. “And this is an important time of year to talk about it.”
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