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Benton-Stephens decides to start Neighborhood Watch program

Thursday, April 10, 2008 | 4:28 p.m. CDT; updated 3:09 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Benton-Stephens residents met Monday at Memorial Baptist Church to discuss ways to get involved and implement the Neighborhood Watch program in their neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Watch program is a national crime prevention program that invites active citizens to work directly with law enforcement to reduce crime in their neighborhood.

Columbia police Officer Mike Hayes gave a presentation to residents that outlined the function of having a Neighborhood Watch program and what residents could do to start one in Benton-Stephens. He stressed that neighbors could become involved just by being aware and living their everyday lives.

The main tips Hayes presented were that citizens should be aware of their surroundings, get to know and to look out for their neighbors, and not be afraid to call the police if they see something suspicious.

Columbia has just fewer than 500 groups within neighborhoods that participate in the Neighborhood Watch program, Hayes said.

“It is proven throughout the U.S. that close knit communities that work with law enforcement are definitely safer communities,” Hayes said.

Heather Windham and Rachael Whearty were inspired to organize the meeting through their work at Rainbow House, a regional child advocacy center that has a transitional house in Benton-Stephens for 16 to 21-year-olds. Windham is the programming director of the Rainbow House’s transitional living program, which is called Sol House, and Whearty is a resident assistant.

“Rainbow House wanted to collaborate with Benton-Stephens to increase the safety for our youth and for our neighborhood,” Windham said.

Windham and Whearty will act as captains for the response team, which will be liaisons with law enforcement. If a crime is committed in the neighborhood, law enforcement will contact the liaisons, who will then pass on information to the rest of the community.

Residents attending the meeting filled out information cards providing contact information to be in touch with the neighborhood captains.

Windham said she hopes to have another meeting soon that is possibly an outdoor picnic or a potluck.

For any questions about becoming involved with the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Watch, contact Rachael Whearty at rwhearty@rainbowhouse.columbia.org.


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