Police ready to help organize neighborhood watches

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Locking vehicles urged, but gang activity not likely

Monett police have recommendations to offer for neighborhoods interested in improving safety through adding Neighborhood Watch programs.

Monett Officer Jay Jastal recently spoke to residents living in the Sunset Villa community, west of Eisenhower, about steps they can take to help police keep their neighborhoods safe.

“We’ve had some neighborhood watches before, and we’ve had some people ask how to start one,” Jastal said. “We get with them. There are different levels they can do. We can set up one and train you if you want to walk around and patrol the neighborhoods. Usually people are keeping watch out for suspicious stuff. We’ll show you how to document that.”

Jastal noted the police department is not advocating the mobilization of groups like the Guardian Angels, a New York City-based group that has set up hundreds of safety patrol chapters throughout the country, but rather seeks assistance from neighbors to watch for questionable behavior, irregular movement of people and possible causes of property damage or theft.

“With the weather getting warm, we’re likely to see stuff stolen out of cars and garages,” Jastal said. “With warm weather, we urge people to lock your stuff up.”

At the monthly Monett City Council meeting, Lt. Greg Brandsma spoke about how recently a family left their truck in a store parking lot only to return minutes later to find their truck missing. Brandsma urged all residents to lock their cars and take their keys as a general policy. He said vehicle thefts have increased lately.

Among the neighbors’ stated concerns was movement by “groups of kids.” Jastal said it would be an overstatement to characterize roaming youths as “gangs.”

“We have kids hanging out on corners,” Jastal said. “Are there gangs in southwest Missouri? Yes, but they’re not doing that kind of activity here in Monett. If the kids identify themselves by a gang name, then we’ll look at them more closely.”

Residents interested in learning more about organizing a neighborhood watch can contact Jastal for additional information by calling the Monett Justice Center at 417-235-4241.

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