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Community eyes, ears needed in Watch program

Neighborhood Watch serves as an avenue for citizens to “observeand report” suspicious activities and operates well when thecommunity and law enforcement work together, said a Lincoln CountySheriff’s Department official overseeing the program’s restart inthe area.

Krysten Butler, administrative assistant for the sheriff’sdepartment, told the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club Wednesday thatNeighborhood Watch was inactive when she joined the departmentseveral years ago. With Sheriff Steve Rushing’s interest andsupport, there are now four programs under way in the county andfour in the city, she said, adding that Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson is also supportive of Neighborhood Watch.

Butler stressed that Neighborhood Watch is not about citizensconfronting suspicious people or physically getting involved; thatremains the job of deputies and police officers. In NeighborhoodWatch, citizens are encouraged to observe what’s happening in theircommunities and report to law enforcement anything that makes themuncomfortable as far as the potential for criminal activity.

“The main thing to keep it going is working together,” Butlersaid about the relationship between citizens and law enforcement.”We need your eyes and we need your ears.”

Butler said Brookhaven and Lincoln County are great places tolive and raise a family, but there is a problem with crime. Havingpeople involved with Neighborhood Watch is a way to combat thatissue.

However, when a crime is being seen or happens, Butleremphasized that people need to call 911 to report it.

“Neighborhood Watch is not an emergency tool,” she said.

Butler said statistics indicate that areas that haveNeighborhood Watch notices posted are less likely to be targeted bya thief.

“They’ll turn around and go to another street,” she said.

Signs, decals and other related information are included in astart-up kit provided by the sheriff’s department when citizens inan area want to form a Neighborhood Watch program. Butler said thedesignated area can be as small or as large as a group wants tohandle.

Aside from Neighborhood Watch, Butler also touted the importanceof citizens keeping an inventory of valuable items in their homes.She indicated that inventory list would assist law enforcement inrecovering those items in the event they are ever stolen.

Butler said the sheriff’s department is looking into funding fora system that would allow citizens to report suspicious activityvia text messaging, e-mail and other ways. She indicated that wouldbe another link in the relationship between citizens and lawenforcement.

“Communication is the key for Neighborhood Watch,” Butler said.”We all have to work together.”