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Proctorville neighbors start watch

PROCTORVILLE — It’s not so much they want to take a bite out of crime. They want to make sure crime doesn’t take a bite out of their neighborhood.

That is the motivation about the new Neighborhood Crime Watch started by residents of a Rome Township neighborhood.

Pam Leep, a lifelong resident of Proctorville and teacher at Fairland West, was talking with some neighbors this spring after reading about a comparable watch set up in Huntington, W.Va.

“We thought it would be a good idea. We are a small area, but centrally located to schools. Schools are within walking distance,” Leep said. “We have a lot of kids. It is not just kids. We have had some break-ins in the Rome area. We are such a good neighborhood. We want to keep it good and safe.”

So far, Leep says the incidents have been primarily break-ins of outbuildings and thefts of bikes and lawnmowers.

Starting the watch back in May has attracted about 90 percent participation of the approximately 175 homes in the neighborhood. There are nine streets involved in the watch group: Oak, Elm, Ash, DeMaria, Fulks, Abigail, Galloway and Archer streets and Cranford Lane.

The group meets the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Rome Church of Christ with speakers invited to give more tips on deterring crime or on staying safe in one’s home. Next month a representative from the Rome Volunteer Fire Department will talk about home furnace safety.

Another resource for the watch group has been the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office that has provided them with safety locks for guns, window stickers and beacon light bulbs to go into front porch light sockets, Leep says. Those lights will burn like a regular bulb unless the switch is flipped twice. Then the lights go off and on like a beacon.

A large part of the watch’s mission to develop an organization where neighbors look out for neighbors, especially the elderly.

“If we see a light on in the middle of the night and that’s not normal, maybe something isn’t right,” Leep said.

The watch has been divided into smaller areas with lot captains in charge. They have canvassed their division, getting their neighbors’ phone numbers. If there is information that needs to be disseminated or an emergency, the lot captains will start calling “phone trees.”

“They may call three people and those three people will call three more,” Leep said.

Even though the watch has only been in operation for five months, Leep already sees benefits.

“We do feel like it is effective. We had had some mail boxes smashed in. We have seen that lighten up,” she said. “We are meeting our neighbors and learning how to watch out for each other.”