East Palestine looks to expand its new Crime Watch endeavor

By Virginia Ross

The local group got some tips from the Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch.

EAST PALESTINE — About a dozen local residents and business people have agreed to take a stand against crime in the city.

The group gathered last week for the initial meeting of the city’s newly formed Crime Watch organization. Members said they are looking for community input, support and volunteers.

“Our local police already have so much to deal with,” said Kelly Miller, who is acting as group director. “They can’t be everywhere at once. We need to do what we can to help them and help each other.”

Last year, members of the East Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, including Don Elzer, chamber president, started discussing working with the National Crime Prevention Council to establish a local Crime Watch group. Miller stepped forward and agreed to help the chamber get the group started.

People interested in participating in the effort are encouraged to attend one of the group’s upcoming meetings. Those meetings are planned for 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at Bea’s Insurance at 31 N. Market St.

Miller asked each person at the initial meeting to bring two more individuals with them next month.

“The biggest problem is getting volunteers and having enough money to get things done,” said Roe Haskin, director of the Salem-Perry Township Crime Watch. Haskin and other members of his team attended the East Palestine session to provide advice and support.

“It all depends on how hard you work at it,” Haskin said. “That will determine how good your group will be when you’re done.”

Haskin, a former police officer, said his Crime Watch team has grown from two members to 120 since it was established about a year ago. He said team members take turns patrolling various areas, either in their cars or on foot, and take note of anything out of the ordinary or any suspicious activity.

“You build up a rapport with your local law enforcement, your police, fire, emergency departments and you give them as much information as you can,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to call the police about something you suspect could be an illegal activity. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Haskin said his organization’s members typically wear Crime Watch T-shirts and name tags so they are visible in the community and can be easily identified.

“But we’re not police,” he said. “We’re concerned citizens keeping an eye out for our neighbors, for each other and our community. When [criminals] know we’re there and we’re watching, it’s amazing how they avoid us and our neighborhoods. They don’t want bothered with us anymore than we want bothered with them.”

Miller said the East Palestine group likely will incorporate some of Haskin’s tools and techniques when developing the local Crime Watch organization. She said she’s hoping to provide updates on criminal activities to residents and business owners, encourage volunteers to patrol parts of the city on foot to save gas costs and invite speakers to discuss crime and safety-related topics at Crime Watch meetings.

“We have lots of ideas and things we want to do,” she said.

The city had a successful crime watch group in the mid-1980s, officials said.

“I’m hoping, like many people here, that we can get back to a time when everybody felt safe, get to where everybody feels safe again in their own neighborhoods and communities,” Miller said. “I believe if we work together we can do this.”

For more information about the new Crime Watch group, contact Miller at (330) 692-1017.

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