On Friday, August 25th, Hildale City Council candidate, Jared Nicol held a community meeting to discuss starting a neighborhood watch program in response to a recent string of vandalisms and burglaries. Nicol arranged the meeting in hopes to build a better working relationship between members of the community and the Marshal’s office. Neighborhood watch is a partnership program between citizens and law enforcement that seeks to drive down crime and more effectively prosecute crimes that do happen. This is done by forming a coalition of citizens who monitor the neighborhood for potential criminal activity and provide feedback to law enforcement. Chief Jerry Darger of the Colorado City Marshal’s office gave a presentation to help people understand some of the difficulties inherent in police work. In addition to bringing public awareness to those difficulties, he presented information to help prospective neighborhood watch participants carry out their role in supporting the Marshal’s office.
“I appreciate Chief Darger for coming out and giving a presentation,” said Nicol. In explaining the value of a neighborhood watch program, he said, “Neighborhood Watch works cooperatively with local government and law enforcement to develop solutions to problems and create interventions for issues that could be problematic. It is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to prevent crime.” He continues, “I’m hoping that having meetings like this, that focus on crime and on the neighborhood watch program, will provide useful information that will help us come together with the Marshal’s office to make the community even better than it is.”
Chief Darger explained, at the meeting, how the neighborhood watch program would be structured and gave a presentation to help bring understanding of the Marshal’s office needs. Chief Darger outlined three learning objectives in the presentation; building a working relationship with law enforcement, building awareness of and recognizing potential and actual criminal behavior, and knowing what, how, and who to report that information to. The most important of these objectives, according to Chief Darger, is building a working relationship with law enforcement. “My perspective has always been; if you have the support of the community, your crime rate goes down. If you don’t have the support of the community, your crime rate goes up.” He continued, “We realize that is a two-way street. Everyone has different personalities and views, but we have to come together, and work together, to make a difference in the community.”
His presentation was interactive, and included exercises to illustrate just how difficult it can be to observe and report useful information about criminal behavior. He outlined some of the difficulties and misconceptions police officers face in carrying out their duties, generally, so that neighborhood watch participants could understand their needs, motivations, and limitations. He made the point that many of the frustrations individuals may feel toward police arise from those limitations rather than any ill will or ineptitude on the part of officers. “Law enforcement has to have some thick skin,” says Darger. He stressed that, although it is a difficult and thankless job at times, working together and gaining understanding of what the job entails makes it easier for everyone. “Simply put, without the trust and support of the citizenry, no law enforcement agency can survive,” he said.
This meeting was just the beginning of a potential long-term project to build the level of trust and support any healthy community needs between its public servants and the citizens. There will be upcoming meetings to discuss logistics, recruit block captains and determine what level of citizen participation they can expect. For more information on the neighborhood watch program, and future meetings, you can contact Jared Nicol or Chief Darger.
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