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Officials hopeful that neighbors on the look-out will reduce crime

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By Kate Darnell

When a large group met at the Cynthiana Christian Church for a Neighborhood Watch presentation last Thursday evening, Kay Withers was among those in attendance.

A summer resident of Cynthiana and a winter resident of Marion County, Fla., Withers is part of a similar Citizens Patrol group in the Sunshine State.

“It was something to do in the neighborhood and a way to get to know people,” she said.

In Florida, Withers said she volunteered at least four hours a month for the program developed by the Sheriff’s department.

Withers spent her volunteer time with Citizens Patrol driving a patrol car around the northeastern corner of the county.

“People would notice the car,” Withers said.

In fact, Withers said, the patrol car was one of the first things she noticed in the neighborhood.

“Everybody’s looking out for each other,” she said.

Withers has worked with the Florida program for six years.

“We have very little crime in our area,” Withers said about her Florida neighborhood. “Citizens Patrol is a deterrent.”

As a volunteer, Withers performs welfare checks for the sheriff’s department and pays special attention to those homes where the residents are away on vacation.

Withers said Citizens Patrol also watches school bus stops and children crossing the road on the way home.

“We do not try to be the police,” said Withers.

But the volunteers of Citizens Patrol work with law enforcement to keep the neighborhood safe, Withers said.

“Once a month, we meet with the lieutenant,” Withers said.

It is at these meetings where Withers and other volunteers are informed of any crime in the area, including sexual predators.

“We are informed when a sexual predator moves into the area, and we can inform the parents of small children,” Withers said.

Withers said neighbors appreciate the presence of the patrol car and volunteers around their homes.

“There was never a time I was on patrol and somebody didn’t stop and thank me,” said Withers.

It’s the simple concept of neighbors watching out for neighbors that would benefit Cynthiana, as well, said Withers.

“It’s good to know somebody’s looking out for your welfare,” said Withers. “The sheriff cannot be everywhere.”

“We need citizen help,” Mayor pro-tem Jack Keith said at Thursday’s meeting. “We have several, several criminal issues here.”

Both Keith and County Judge Executive Alex Barnett thanked the group for their support of the Neighborhood Watch program. Cynthiana Police Chief Ray Johnson and Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton were also present.

Bob Douglas, a representative from Kentucky Crime Prevention spoke to the group about free materials available to neighborhood watch groups.

“Neighborhood Watch is growing in Kentucky,” Douglas said.

Douglas said citizens are not being asked to do a police officer or sheriff’s deputy’s job.

“You are not out there to arrest or detain criminals,” said Douglas, adding that citizens should not put themselves in harm’s way. “Call law enforcement and let them check things out.”

As co-chairperson of Champions for a Drug Free Harrison County, Karen Adams said she is excited about the turnout for the meeting.

“What a hopeful night this is,” said Adams Thursday evening. “Let us know what we can do for you.”

Douglas asked audience members to take the materials and knowledge from Thursday evening to build their own neighborhood watch programs.

“I’m going to challenge you to get involved in the community,” said Douglas. “Neighborhood Watch is really all of us and all of us working together.”

For more information about getting involved in the Neighborhood Watch program, call the Sheriff’s Department at 234-7135 or the Cynthiana Police Department at 234-7157.