03/30/11 — Residents form group to take bite out of crime

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Residents form group to take bite out of crime

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 30, 2011 1:46 PM

Nearly 25 people kicked off a neighborhood Crime Watch program at Wood Grove Church on Central Heights Road Monday evening.

Those in attendance came from neighborhoods on both sides of U.S. 13 between Tommy's Road and Hood Swamp Road.

Richard and Bonnie Bledsoe said they were motivated to organize the meeting after Bonnie's mother and father, Mary and George Peele, both 77, were the victims of a violent home invasion.

Two men entered the Peeles' home in the early afternoon of Nov. 4, 2010.

Mrs. Peele said soon after the men entered the home, one of them struck her husband in the face with a firearm knocking him to the ground. She said she pleaded with the men not to hurt her husband anymore, at which point one of them grabbed her arm and demanded money.

Thanks to the quick action of neighbors calling authorities, the men were arrested before fleeing the scene.

While Peele recovered from his injuries, the couple say they are still fearful.

"It was sure something scary to go through," Mrs. Peele said. "I cried for three days and nights. I am still emotional about it."

While it was the Peeles' neighbors who quickly contacted law enforcement, perhaps an even stronger neighborhood network will allow Mrs. Peele to again feel at peace.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Brandy Jones, who has had experience starting Crime Watch groups, said getting to know your neighbors is the first step.

Mrs. Jones asked everyone in the group to raise their hand if they knew their neighbors living next door. Virtually everyone in the room raised a hand.

Mrs. Jones then asked the crowd to raise their hands if they knew the neighbors living one door down. Half the hands went up.

Finally, Mrs. Jones asked to see the hands of those who knew their neighbors living two doors down. Almost no hands were raised.

"Go out and meet your neighbors. Know who their children are. Be aware of their vehicles," Mrs. Jones advised.

Mrs. Jones said community awareness is vital to a successful Crime Watch program.

"I love a nosey neighbor," Mrs. Jones said. "A nosey neighbor knows who is coming in and out of the area."

While many Crime Watch programs get started, few survive.

"I usually get a call after something has happened," Mrs. Jones said.

Typically, the organization and interest in it fade when there are no more incidents in the area, Mrs. Jones said.

"Then a crime occurs and people get motivated again," she said.

In fact, Mrs. Jones said she is aware of only two active Crime Watch programs in the county.

Mrs. Jones had advice for keeping the program intact.

"It depends on the participation. That is the whole key," she said. "It is you guys who have to keep the ball rolling."

Bledsoe said he felt confident the group will be able to keep its Crime Watch going.

"I don't think it will be a problem. A lot of the people here are long-time residents who already know each other," he said. "And it is all about building relationships."

He added that he was very impressed with the amount of people who showed an interest by coming to the meeting.

Mrs. Peele said she also was pleased with the turnout.

"I think the meeting went real good," she said. "It makes you feel good to see all the people here tonight."

County residents interested in starting a Crime Watch program in their neighborhood can get more information by contacting the Crime Prevention Division of the Sheriff's Office at (919) 705-6584. City residents can call the police department's Crime Prevention Division at (919) 580-4252.