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Keeping Watch: Vernondale neighbors meet with police chief

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Chief of Police Bobby Bell addresses the Verdondale Neighborhood Watch group Monday night as Sgt. David C Johnston listens in. Johnston will be the department's liaison to the Neighborhood Watch.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Chief of Police Bobby Bell addresses the Verdondale Neighborhood Watch group Monday night as Sgt. David C Johnston listens in. Johnston will be the department’s liaison to the Neighborhood Watch.

Concerned members of the Verdondale Neighborhood in Brookhaven met at the Jimmy Furlow Senior Center last night to discuss ways to keep the community safe through the Neighborhood Watch program.

Newly elected Chief of Police Bobby Bell told the citizens that the Brookhaven Police Department will now be taking over the Watch program, formally the domain of the Sheriff’s Department.

“We want to you to be the eyes and ears of the community. We want to know when you are happy and when you are sad,” said Bell.

Six to seven captains, designated by community members, will provide the Brookhaven police department with tips and information. Verdondale community neighbors will be on the front lines of the program, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Sgt. David C. Johnston will be the department liaison to the Verdondale Neighborhood Watch.

“I want you to know your neighbors better than yourselves. I want you to know their habits; when do they leave the house, when do they come home? This way you can determine when something is out of whack,” said Johnston.

Coordination between the community and the police department was one of the topics under discussion.

According to the chief, new advances in technology have given the department new ways to keep in touch with the community. Bell discussed the utilization of Facebook as a means to keep community members informed. He also said he would email and/or text watch captains if incidents arise as a means to quickly warn citizens about potential concerns in the area.

Some of this access to communication is also meant to quell the fears of community members, according to Bell. “Not everything you hear is true,” Bell said. “So it’s best to check with us before you make any rash decisions. We will do our best to keep you up to date.”

Bell also discussed how developments in the implementation of a new liquor ordinance might affect crime rates in the community.

“I don’t know how the new liquor law will affect the community to be honest. I have looked at other places that were in the same boat, and to be frank, not much has changed. Whether this is the case for Brookhaven remains to be seen,” Bell said.

Alderman at large, Karen Sullivan, who lives in the Vernondale area, participated in the event Monday as well.

The Verdondale community encompasses the area between Margaret Street to the south, I-51 to the west, Natchez Avenue to the north and Perkins Drive/Kraner Lane to the east.

Residents of the neighborhood have agreed to have quarterly meetings to update each other, and their police department liaison, about recent events and concerns.