Mount Olive residents set sights on stopping crime
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 28, 2008 1:43 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- A Neighborhood Watch is more than just signs warning criminals to beware, it is a way for a neighborhood to come together on many levels, says the president of Mount Olive's newest program in District 1, and the town's chief of police, Ralph Schroeder.
"We are more than crime prevention," David Armstrong Jr. said. "Crime is because of certain things that happen in the neighborhood. We are trying to be a grassroots organization to keep people from going to crime."
"Like the chief was telling us the other night, we have people in this area walking up and down the street who are homeless, who have no place to go, we see that. We try to be aware of people who might be too sick to look after themselves. Our group serves those kinds of people who are homeless or in need of special care."
"We have got children walking up and down the street every day. They don't go to school, or have jobs and there are homeless women and because they don't have anywhere to go at night they are causing crime," Armstrong said. "We want these people to know that we are watching them and trying to protect them, too. It is more than trying to report drugs and alcohol -- we are trying to watch out for them."
Armstrong added that the group's members are also aware of some elderly residents who cannot cut their grass or who are sick. The organization has a clean-up crew that cleans the neighborhood once a month and checks on elderly residents.
Armstrong helped get the program started last year after contacting the National Sheriff's Association for information. The district is registered with the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and is now a member of USAonwatch.org.
Schroeder applauded the watch's creation and said he would like to see more such citizen involvement.
"We would like to have a Neighborhood Watch in every district," he said. "It helps us a lot. In the past, in Neighborhood Watch areas, we have had a house broken into and people have called us and given directions as to where the people who had broken into the house were going. If neighbors are watching it really helps us."
"It is more than just putting up signs," Schroeder added. "The watch in itself is a great thing because it can help us. We can't be everywhere at once, but if you have eyes in every district then we have an idea of what is going on. It helps us in the respect that we can get the call, work the call, and have an idea maybe of who committed the break-in or damaged property."
"The main thing we have to do is get more participation in the town," the chief said. "We are no better in the Neighborhood Watch than the people in the neighborhood. That is what really helps us. The more help we can get, the better off we can be."
The District I Neighborhood Watch was started last October and extends from the County Road area to Franklin Street and James Street.
Currently, the only other Neighborhood Watch is the Unity Heights group that meets at North East Original Free Will Baptist Church on East James Street.
One way the District 1 Neighborhood Watch is working to address social problems is through the Children of the Wilderness Foundation.
Foundation founder Gloria McCallop said the goal is to help all people of all ages.
"We will help with shopping, getting them to a doctor if needed," she said. "We want to be of help to those who don't have any help."
Ms. McCallop created the organization some eight years ago while living in Connecticut. She moved to Mount Olive six months ago and has been working to get the foundation started here. It currently operates out of Christ Community Church on Stanley Chapel Church Road. People interested in more information, who want to help or need assistance should call Ms. McCallop at 635-9332.
Armstrong said people may contact the church directly and the pastor, the Rev. Donald Kornegay, can refer them to Children of the Wilderness Foundation.
"We will refer our people to them, too," he said. "This is one outlet we are relying on to help."
"We need the participation of neighbors so they can come out and tell us their needs, who needs the help so we can help, not just District 1, but the entire town," said Geraldine Wells, secretary of the District 1 group. "We want to bring neighborhoods together."
The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Building on North Center Street at 7 p.m.
"We are making Mount Olive a better place to live," Armstrong said. "It is more than about crime. It is about getting people to stay away from crime. We are coming along. I think we are doing pretty good."
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