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A new Neighborhood Watch program is under way in Tell City, offering extra sets of eyes and ears in the fight against criminal activity.
We support the program’s goals of providing information to police officers about possible vandalism, gang activity and other wrongdoing. We also acknowledge volunteers’ stated efforts to promote disaster preparedness and education on crime prevention.
While we understand the use of neighborhood patrols by watch members, we do have a concern that the program will focus too much on private patrols of the city’s public areas, streets and parks, and less on what most people think of Neighborhood Watches, that is neighbors keeping an eye on their neighborhoods.
We understand Jesse Boarman and Joe Bailey, leaders of the effort, want to report information to police. That’s something all of us should do. We hope all of us would call police if we saw someone climbing through a window or vandalizing a picnic table or bench in a city park. But the city does not need private investigators following people they think have committed some crime or suspect are up to no good.
Let’s be clear. Neighborhood Watch volunteers don’t have any more authority than average citizens. They aren’t sworn officers, they carry no deputized powers and they have to follow all other rules, including a ban on carrying hand-held police scanners. They can’t trespass on the property of others.
We applaud the desire to prevent crime and deter problems. We hope the signs that will soon go up declaring Tell City to be a Neighborhood Watch community will do just that. And we hope neighborhood patrols will prevent crime in city neighborhoods.
We hope to report in six months that the Neighborhood Watch program is a success and that complaints have been few or nonexistent. For that to happen, volunteers will need to have open communication with the police department and sworn officers who will respond to the information volunteers provide.
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