Frank Edwards, 77, walks with a cane, but that hasn’t prevented him from helping to lower the crime rate in his First Ward neighborhood. The former sheriff patrols the streets near his home regularly and keeps a cell phone close to his lap, ready to dial the police.
Edwards, who is part of the Citizens on Patrol program, was one of more than 40 people who attended the Columbia Neighborhood Watch Revitalization gathering Thursday night at the Armory Sports Center. The event was hosted by the police department and the Neighborhood Watch Program, which began in 1978.
The gathering, which focused on police Beats 50 and 55, attracted more participants than the same event held two years ago, when only six people showed up.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” said officer Mike Hayes, the adult community services officer and coordinator of the gathering.
Hayes said the spike in participation shows people are more interested in preventing crime in their community by collaborating with the police.
During the gathering, officers introduced themselves to residents and encouraged them to work closely with officers and participate in Neighborhood Watch and other programs offered by the city.
One of those programs is Citizens on Patrol. Residents hit the streets and contact the police if they see any criminal activity.
Police also showed a video on how to protect a home from break-ins and how to keep close ties to officers patrolling the neighborhood. Some of the officers who patrol Beats 50 and 55 were present at the meeting.
“People have concerns about crime in this area; we need the involvement of the people,” said Richard Poelling, president of the Neighborhood Watch board of directors. According to Columbia police, Beats 50 and 55, which encompass much of the First Ward, have the city’s highest crime rate and make the most service calls.