Fed up with watching drug transactions take place on their street, residents of Matson Drive in Marion are forming a neighborhood watch to help police catch lawbreakers.
About 25 residents gathered at Marion Church of God fellowship hall Tuesday evening to discuss the issue with Marion police officers offering to help them form the neighborhood watch. Lt. Andrew Moss and Officer Jason Horner, along with Sheriff Chip Shuler, spoke with the residents and offered advice.
“This is something we have wanted to get going for a long time,” said Moss. “We used to have them [neighborhood watch programs]. You can still see the signs around town.”
Shuler thanked the citizens for wanting to help the police.
“There are problems throughout the county,” he said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. We need the eyes and ears of the citizens.”
And patience is required, Shuler said, as the legal process proceeds.
“It’s not what we know; it’s what we can prove,” he said.
The officers explained the need to call 911 only in the event of an emergency. Suspicious activity can be reported to the police department’s regular line during the day or to the county dispatch number after 5 p.m. The daytime office number is 783-8145 and the after-hours number is 783-7204.
Deadly force, as in shooting at someone, is restricted to protection of self or others, not property or pets, said Shuler. “You can’t use deadly force to protect anything except your life or the life of somebody else.”
Residents say there are people running through their backyards despite “no trespassing” signs.
Moss said sometimes people will set up in someone’s yard or near their house to steal their WIFI signal. He said anyone with concerns should forward those to the police department.
Other advice to residents included:
Don’t touch any drug paraphernalia or suspicious items found in yards or on the street, especially needles. There is a high incidence of Hepatitis C among drug users, Shuler said. Report this to the police department.
Get the license plate numbers of vehicles for people driving recklessly through the neighborhood or if appearing to be part of criminal activity and report this to police.
Contact the respective county departments regarding trash, debris or hazardous materials outside town limits.
The residents were given surveys to complete from the National Crime Prevention Council. Questions involved the state of the neighborhood over the past year, if residents could count on a neighbor to help in situations of illness or absence, safety of neighborhood for children and elderly, and whether neighbors talk about working together to solve problems.
“We need neighbors to work together to take back their neighborhoods,” said Horner. “When you call us we come every time. They know where we are because they watch. You need to help us to help solve this problem.”
Shuler said the county has limited resources as do most law enforcement departments.
“I’m doing everything I can with what I have,” the sheriff said. “Some people don’t fear us at all. We’re not always a deterrent. Some people don’t respect our positions at all.”
Horner added that law enforcement officers must follow rules and guidelines when handling situations. “Look at options like zoning laws and building inspection,” he said. “Run these people out. Make them feel they’re not welcome.”
“We’ve got to pray about this,” Shuler added. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this. Mental health is overwhelmed. The jail is full. None of us is unaffected by this drug problem. It’s all over the county. Take away the demand and the supply will be gone.”
“We’ve got to help each other, and this is a good start,” Shuler said.
Moss told the residents that the police department is working on getting official metal signs for the neighborhood watch program.
The residents plan to hold monthly meetings and said to watch the sign at the church for details. The meetings will also be posted on the Marion Police Department Facebook page.