HICKORY GROVE — People in the Hickory Grove area can rest easier in their homes assured of their continued safety. A renewed Community Watch in the area should result in peace of mind for the residents of the small community.
A Community Watch, or neighborhood watch, is an organized group of community members devoted to crime prevention within a specified area. Residents agree to watch one another’s properties, patrol the streets, and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
“This is something sponsored in coordination with the sheriff’s office to alert citizens of the community to get on the same level, know their neighbors, the hours they work, the kinds of cars they drive, and be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary,” Bobby Lewis, coordinator of the Hickory Grove community watch, said.
Lewis decided to revamp a watch program in the Hickory Grove area about one month ago after seeing an increase in activity in the area and talking with his neighbors.
“There have been suspicious activities in the general area, and we found out there was more interest in it than we had hoped,” he said.
The first meeting saw 27 people in attendance, and more than 40 community members attended the second meeting, confirming Lewis’ prediction that this was something the community wanted and needed.
A Community Watch is often necessary in areas with limited numbers of law enforcement personnel.
“If the sheriff’s office had 100 more people, they couldn’t prevent crime,” Lewis said. “They need extra eyes and ears.”
Lt. David Shaw, coordinator of Community Watch programs for the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, agrees, saying that the best person to alert law enforcement to suspicious activity in an area is the person living there every day.
The program is a resurrection of a watch program that was started in the 1980s in the same area, and Lewis is hoping to see the same kind of success they witnessed in the ’80s. Lewis recounted one incident which earned him recognition for his efforts to aid law enforcement. He had left early one morning to go to Bladenboro and saw a car that looked suspicious to him. On his way back home, he saw the same car in his brother’s driveway. After the authorities had been alerted, Lewis kept the suspects detained until law enforcement arrived. Three suspects from Eastover were arrested and were discovered to have broken into fourteen houses altogether. All three were tried and convicted.
The program has already seen success this year as well. Lewis reported that one local citizen observed a strange car backed into a neighborhood driveway and people peering into windows. She alerted authorities, and the Sheriff’s Office has an arrest warrant out on a suspect and has connected him with other burglaries.
In addition to working with the Sheriff’s Office, the community watch program wants to educate and raise awareness about security. In order to accomplish these goals, the group is planning a family day party, a tailgating affair with an emphasis on weapons education.
“It’s for people who are looking for a weapon who don’t know what they want and for people who want to familiarize themselves with weapons,” Lewis said.
The party will include target practice.
Lewis anticipates great success with the resurrected program. “If people get together and watch each others’ backs, I know it will work.”
To get involved or to start a community watch in your area, call Shaw at 910-862-6960.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.