HALEYVILLE - Watchful eyes and attentive ears out in the community can make a good police department even better.
The kick-off meeting for the new Haleyville Community Watch program will be Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Haleyville City Hall courtroom. The meeting is designed for residents and business owners throughout the Haleyville Police jurisdiction who want to be watchful of any suspicious activity in their areas, which they, in turn, can report to police.
Crimes in progress should always be reported to Haleyville dispatch at (205) 486-5201. However, other types of suspicious activity, including sudden increases in traffic at a residence, suspicious vehicles or persons, can be reported more directly to the police department through a community watch spokesperson.
When Rodney Lewis became Haleyville’s police chief a year ago, one of his major missions was to get officers back involved in the community, he said. Lewis has received several requests from the community about starting a new community watch program, he added. The city had a neighborhood watch program when Lewis began working with the police department over 15 years ago, he recalled.
“It kind of died out with the older officers who retired,” Lewis stated. “Now, we’re about to start up a new program called Community Watch to get the community involved because a lot of citizens won’t come to us and talk to us.”
The idea through the new Community Watch program is to have a designated spokesperson from each neighborhood desiring to have a watch program come talk to police and relay messages to them of ongoing potentially suspicious activity, Lewis said.
Under the law, community watch members cannot be armed when performing watch duties, but will be trained by police, equipped with a traffic vest and a flashlight to use in patrolling their neighborhoods.
“The people you want are the people who get up at 4 a.m. and walk their dogs,” said Lewis, adding these people are familiar with their neighborhoods and can keep watch for any suspicious activity.
“We need to have a meeting for the people who are willing to participate so we know where to focus our attention,” added Lt. Eddie Collins, investigator with the police department.
If four or five residents from one neighborhood, for example, attend the kick-off meeting, they will form their own committee, with a chairperson chosen from among the residents.
“This meeting (on Jan. 25) is to establish who is interested in their community. Then they will go back and talk to the folks in their community to see who is interested,” Collins stated. “They will form their own group.”
This means, instead of six persons from a single neighborhood or community calling police, that spokesperson will be in contact with the group, so if suspicious activity is noted, it can be reported to police by the spokesperson, police explained. The person from each community selected as the spokesperson will be given contact information for Lewis and Collins.
“If they have had a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood for three or four days, instead of tying up a dispatch call, they can just (send) me or (Collins) a text message,” said Lewis.
In this example of a situation, the community watch spokesperson would request additional patrols from police in the area of concern in their neighborhood, police explained.
At this point, Lewis can contact officers working that shift and request they do additional patrols for a particular time period
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.