Leaders in Sullivan County say they hope a strengthened neighborhood watch program can restore the relationship between police and the community. Our Eva McKend was at the county-wide "Stepping Up to Safety" forum at the Monticello Firehouse and filed this report.
MONTICELLO, N.Y. - "It’s time for us to all come together as a community and create that change, that sense of togetherness, warmth and security that we once had in this area," said Shannon Daniel, longtime Monticello resident.
The Chair of the Sullivan County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee gathered every law enforcement agency in Sullivan County together for the Stepping up to Safety neighborhood watch initiative Tuesday evening.
With rampant burglaries, hundreds investigated by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office since the beginning of the year, all eyes are on practical solutions.
Leaders say the goal is to allow people to feel as though they have control of their communities but not to encourage vigilante justice.
"The purpose of the meeting is really for people to look at the things that are within their power to control, how can they work with law enforcement in a more organized way and build better relationships between communities and law enforcement," said Cora Edwards, Chair of the Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee.
"One of the key elements that we try to emphasize is that you know your neighbor better than I do. You know who lives there, you know what vehicles should be there and that information is very valuable," said Luis Alvarez, a sergeant in the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.
With police agencies forced to cut their manpower due to county wide budget cuts, many hope that an expanded neighborhood watch will help reduce the burglaries.
"The numbers will show. The proof will be in the pudding because as one of the neighborhood watch groups that’s been involved for four years has shown that in that time, they haven’t had any burglaries," said Edwards.
The Liberty based neighborhood watch program is the model.
There are more than two thousand members of a Sullivan County neighborhood watch Facebook group. Stepping Up to Safety allowed residents to get handouts on how to create neighborhood watch programs, resource kits and face time with local law enforcement.
"I think it's important for us to just stay focused and keep our communities safe," said Daniel.
Stepping Up to Safety will meet again at the Monticello Firehouse on September 18th.
In Monticello, Eva McKend Y-N-N.