As incidents of crime and vandalism mounted so did the couple's frustration. Finally, a desire to "take back" their neighborhood led the Switzers to join forces with others living in the St. Lawrence Catholic Church neighborhood to organize a Neighborhood Watch effort.
"Those of us who live here and want to be here didn't want to have to deal with this," said Athene.
On Tuesday, Athene addressed the Monett City Council about several issues in the St. Lawrence neighborhood, and Monett Police Chief Tim Schweder used the opportunity of the public forum to encourage the formation of other Neighborhood Watch groups in the city.
|"This is the only Neighborhood Watch program we have going on in the city, and we would love to help other neighborhoods get Neighborhood Watch programs started," said Chief Schweder. "We'll help anyone who is interested get started."|
Officer Alvin Zabala has been working with the St. Lawrence Neighborhood Watch group since the first organizational meetings were held.
"It's been a great program," said Officer Zabala, who was in attendance at Tuesday's council meeting. "People are finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel as they start to see what can be done by working together.
"(Neighborhood Watch) can help with the tourism for the city with people knowing the city is a safer place and the community is out there doing something," added Officer Zabala.
Athene Switzer said the atmosphere in her neighborhood has been improving ever since Neighborhood Watch began six months ago.
"This year, I've seen more walkers out than I've ever seen before," said Athene. "I told people we need to take this neighborhood back. I told them the best way to do that is to have more porch sitters and more people out walking. Obviously, it's working."
The St. Lawrence Neighbor Watch area extends from Fifth to Ninth and from Cleveland to Broadway. The group's next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on May 7 in the basement of St. Lawrence Church on Cale Street.
"We meet every other month and have 10 to 15 people attend our meetings on average," said Athene.
Anyone who is interested in getting a Neighborhood Watch program started is encouraged to contact Chief Schweder at 235-4241.
Neighborhood Watch is one of the oldest and best-known crime prevention concepts in North America. In the late 1960s, an increase in crime heightened the need for a crime prevention initiative focused on residential areas and involving local citizens. The National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) responded, creating the National Neighborhood Watch Program in 1972 to assist citizens and law enforcement.