By Erin Post
From Prickly Mountain to Sugarbush Village, citizens in the town of Warren are ready to put the phrase 'neighbor helping neighbor' into action.
About 60 residents have signed up to be neighborhood watch participants so far, and over half a dozen volunteers have committed to being 'neighborhood captains.'
Now, organizers are looking for volunteers to coordinate the remaining neighborhoods.
Cormier said these volunteers would be responsible for maintaining the list of participants for their neighborhoods and otherwise organizing activities and events.
"The captains will be instrumental in educating the neighborhoods," Cormier said.
The program is also still actively seeking more participants.
Neighborhood captains and other volunteers plan to fan out in the coming weeks to gather contact information from residents who would like to participate as well as distribute pamphlets explaining the program.
Cormier stressed that the neighborhood watch does not include patrols; the goal is to encourage residents to be aware of their surroundings as they go about their day-to-day lives and to work with their neighbors and law enforcement to prevent crime.
The program sets up a means of communication between law enforcement and watch participants: Press releases keep participants up to date regarding any criminal activity or investigations pertinent to their town, and information from watch participants is passed on to state police.
All participants receive a list of phone numbers and contact information for a variety of different resources, from the state police and county sheriff's departments to services such as the domestic abuse emergency hotline, Washington County Mental Health services and the Central Vermont Medical Center.
Participants also receive instructions and a form regarding how to record what police call 'actionable information,' or the important details law enforcement officials look for when investigating a crime, Cormier said. The particulars of a situation--anything from rust spots or unusual markings on a vehicle to details about a person's appearance--can help to locate a suspect or prosecute a crime.
In addition to sharing information with state police, all of the neighborhoods will also likely plan their own meetings, maybe 10 or so per year, to help participants get to know each other.
The gatherings, although meant to be fun, help prevent crime as well, Cormier said. By making sure residents know each other, they increase the chances that a would-be criminal will be noticed and caught.
"It's really all about getting to know your neighbors," he said.
Fundraising is also an ongoing focus for the new Warren Neighborhood Watch. Cormier said ideas include organizing bi-annual potlucks or other gatherings as well as soliciting donations from individuals, businesses and foundations. The goal is to raise money to purchase additional signs, decals and training resources.
Signs and other materials provided to the town through a grant received by the Central Vermont State Police Community Advisory Board and Local Emergency Planning District #5 (LEPC 5) has gotten the town off to a good start, Cormier said, but as the program grows, more material will be needed.
The program also received $175 from the select board in December to purchase 10 additional signs, and the Warren road crew has installed them.
Other Valley towns are also moving forward with watch programs.
In Waitsfield, a town coordinator is needed, said LEPC 5 chair Fred Messer.
Messer said, although he has been filling in since former coordinator Tim Wiggins stepped down due to health concerns, an upcoming project is likely going to stretch his time thin.
"The new police chief in Barre is requesting LEPC 5 assistance with standing up a neighborhood watch there," Messer said via e-mail. "That will be an extremely large project for my team. Hence, I really will not be able to do the Waitsfield neighborhood watch true justice."
For new watch participants or for those who would like to review the training, DVD copies of the training program held at the Waitsfield School, filmed by MRVTV Channel 44, are available, Messer said.
A business watch program in The Valley also continues to develop.
Watch organizers have met with the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, Messer said, and plan to establish a network of business owners to work together to prevent crime.
Donations in the form of a personal check may be mailed to the following address:
Warren Neighborhood Watch Association, c/o Clayton-Paul Cormier Jr., 35 Wildflower Lane, Warren, VT 05674.