New focus on Neighborhood Watch program

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 11, 2002

Efforts are being made in Lincoln County to join a nationalmovement to increase the benefits of an already vital communityprogram.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President GeorgeBush asked for heightened awareness from all citizens.

One way he plans to meet that goal is by increasing the effortsof the National Sheriff’s Association’s Neighborhood Watch.

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Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte said work has already begun tostrengthen Neighborhood Watch programs in the area by includingmore residents and educating them about ways to help keep thecommunity safe.

“Neighborhood Watch is not just about patrolling ourneighborhoods. Neighborhood Watch is about knowing yourneighborhood,” said Boyte. “There’s no one who knows more about acommunity than the people who live there.”

Boyte urges Lincoln County residents to “come out of their homesand get to know their neighbors.”

He said that is often the best tool to know when something issuspicious in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Watch is a group of people who assist lawenforcement officers by being their “eyes and ears.” They help byrecording serial numbers from items in their homes so officers cantrack them easily if they are stolen.

Residents also help officers by reporting suspicious vehicles,persons or activity in the neighborhood immediately.

Boyte said the tactics had immediate results when the programwas implemented in Lincoln County in 1988.

He remembered how the home burglary count was around 30burglaries a month before Neighborhood Watch.

“It kept going that way until we got Neighborhood Watch, and nowwe have as low as just four burglaries a month,” said Boyte.

Since it began, 67 groups have organized and become a part ofNeighborhood Watch in Lincoln County.

“Our community is known for its volunteerism and commitment tothe safety and security of our citizens,” said Boyte. “NeighborhoodWatch is a vital part of our community’s efforts to take care ofeach other. It has been a cornerstone of crime prevention.”

The successes of the local Neighborhood Watch program has spreadthrough the country, encouraging other areas to work for a strongprogram.

The program has been noted for assisting law enforcementofficers in decreasing drug activity in the area andburglaries.

Neighborhood Watch also raised over $12,000 to put cautionlights at all the county schools several years ago, Boyte pointedout.

“It makes us feel good that some of the things we’ve done inLincoln County for 10-15 years, the people from Washington areseeing how helpful it is,” Boyte said.

Boyte said the mission of the program would not change, but hehopes the involvement will increase, bringing about less crime inthe area.

“We hope we never have any terrorist activity in this area, butif there is we want to discover it before anything happens,” hesaid.

A guide with helpful tips for citizen preparedness can berequested by calling 1-800-WE-PREVENT.