Kent County Crime Watch making neighborhoods safer

 

Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware sergeant-at-arms Suxette Leonovich of Magnolia, right, and assistant chaplain Linda Medunick of Star Hill hold street signs and a map detailing which communities in Kent County are part of their crime watch organization Thursday evening inside the Kent County Levy Court chamber during a recent meeting.   (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware sergeant-at-arms Suxette Leonovich of Magnolia, right, and assistant chaplain Linda Medunick of Star Hill hold street signs and a map detailing which communities in Kent County are part of their crime watch organization Thursday evening inside the Kent County Levy Court chamber during a recent meeting. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — They’re somewhat nosy neighbors, constantly communicating what they’ve seen and heard.

They’re also observant information sharers hoping to keep their communities safe.

Now in its 20th year, the Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware is fueled by residents committed to being the eyes and ears of law enforcement by reporting suspicious activity where they live.

On the fourth Thursday of each month, up to 75 members regularly gather at Kent County Levy Court at 555 Bay Road in Dover for discussion and exchange of information regarding the safety of their homesteads.

The nonprofit organization includes representation from 110 communities throughout the county, and is regularly joined at meetings by

CRIME WATCH PURPOSE The Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware said its purpose is to: • Serve as an advocate for Kent County communities working with the Delaware State Police and local police departments to help reduce crime within Kent County. • Promote a safe environment in which to live, while working together as a community to access grants and other resources to maintain Crime Watch readiness. • Establish and maintain an educational network to address the needs and concerns of the community as they relate to Crime Watch within communities. • Maintain vigilance and cooperation with officials and governmental agencies, to see the various public services affecting the community effectively. • Establish and maintain partnership with local businesses to provide resources and technical assistance for Crime Watch. • Provide a monthly forum for the discussion and resolution of matter that are of interest to members of the Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware.

CRIME WATCH PURPOSE
The Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware said its purpose is to:
• Serve as an advocate for Kent County communities working with the Delaware State Police and local police departments to help reduce crime within Kent County.
• Promote a safe environment in which to live, while working together as a community to access grants and other resources to maintain Crime Watch readiness.
• Establish and maintain an educational network to address the needs and concerns of the community as they relate to Crime Watch within communities.
• Maintain vigilance and cooperation with officials and governmental agencies, to see the various public services affecting the community effectively.
• Establish and maintain partnership with local businesses to provide resources and technical assistance for Crime Watch.
• Provide a monthly forum for the discussion and resolution of matter that are of interest to members of the Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware.

Delaware State Police, Dover Police Department and DNREC officers who share in the discourse.

The watch group hopes more residential areas will join the cause, and the general membership meeting Thursday “will be a very good one for communities to attend and see what our organization is all about,” said the group’s secretary Shellie Schack.

At next week’s gathering, community representatives from the town of Frederica, and south Dover communities and Pennwood will offer hints and tips on what’s worked for them in running a successful crime watch.

Bryant Craig, the group’s board of directors’ parliamentarian, believes an organized effort in his Rodney Village community reduced crime, cut down speeding and increased communication among neighbors.

Rodney Village has 31 residents who are active crime watchers, many of whom are elderly Mr. Craig said, with multiple members on each street. The neighbors walk the streets, communicate via phone networks, monitor from inside their homes and generally are cognizant of what’s going on near their properties.

“In the three years since we formed, we’ve seen tremendous growth,” Mr. Craig said. “We’ve gone from a few number of persons to a large amount and the illegal activities have been cut down.”

Board President Roger Hollopeter, of Dover’s Fairfield Farms, said familiarity among neighbors is a key in recognizing what’s routine and what may be out of place, and having people almost always on an active lookout.

“Some people go to bed early, some go to bed late,” Mr. Hollopeter said. “Work schedules can include overnights or daytime shifts.

“People are constantly on the move somewhere, and paying attention to their surroundings can mean a lot to keeping a neighborhood safe.”

Detecting trouble

When possible trouble is detected, a call to the Delaware State Police brings a swift response, Mr. Hollopeter said, describing the troopers’ coverage as “phenomenal.”

“When we call in and say ‘Crime Watch’ they know we’re serious,” he said.

Also pitching in to a great degree is Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Jody Sweeney, whom Mr. Hollopeter said has been instrumental in acquiring grant money while lending consistent support to the organization.

Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware president Roger Hollopeter of Dover speaks Thursday evening inside the Kent County Levy Court chamber during a meeting of the crime busters.

Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware president Roger Hollopeter of Dover speaks Thursday evening inside the Kent County Levy Court chamber during a meeting of the crime busters.

A crime watch member for six years, Board Sergeant at Arms Suzette Leonovich uses the monthly meetings to gather information to take back to her Meadows at Chestnut Ridge neighbors. The methods work, she said.

“Seeing the difference from regularly having crime to nearly wiping it out is nice,” she said.

Treasurer Christine Dewar said it took a break-in in her Lexington Mill area to “serve as a wake-up call that we are not in a little place where nothing bad ever happens.”

Actually, Ms. Dewar said, “it’s OK to be nosy. Keeping an eye out is just making sure that people who live around you remain safe, as well as yourself.”

The concept for a local crime watch grew out of concerns that the Rev. Patricia Hercules had in 1996 about crime in the Capitol Park and Star Hill/Palmer Park areas that were riddled with a thriving illegal drug market bringing a criminal element to the communities, according to Ms. Schack.

Ms. Hercules was said to have prayed in front of a drug trafficker’s location, which drew attention to the problem and followed with police arrests and a drop in the crime rate there, the crime watchers said.

Now, resident Nelson Driggus Sr. said, “You can walk safely through Star Hill; I think everyone is happy about that.”

The idea solidified into an organized effort that formed the Kent County Crime Watch in the spring of 1996, when the first meeting was held at the Delaware State Police headquarters in Dover. By June of that year, bylaws were approved by membership, which grew to 28 communities by December 2008.

State police approve

According to Delaware State Police Maj. Galen M. Purcell, the agency’s southern operations officer, “The biggest benefit and value to the

ABOUT CRIME WATCH • Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware organizes neighborhoods of developments, single family homes, apartment complexes, gated communities throughout Kent County and its municipalities. • Educates residents in crime-prevention techniques, personal safety and crime trends. • Learn about local police department needs and establish a working relationship. • Create a phone chain and/or email list to communicate with neighbors in times of need. • A home security survey is the primary tool used in crime prevention to recognize, appraise and anticipate loss potential. A security survey is an in-depth on-site examination of a home and its surrounding property. The survey is conducted to determine its deficiencies or security risks, to determine the protection needed, and to make recommendations to minimize criminal opportunity.

ABOUT CRIME WATCH
• Kent County Crime Watch of Delaware organizes neighborhoods of developments, single family homes, apartment complexes, gated communities throughout Kent County and its municipalities.
• Educates residents in crime-prevention techniques, personal safety and crime trends.
• Learn about local police department needs and establish a working relationship.
• Create a phone chain and/or email list to communicate with neighbors in times of need.
• A home security survey is the primary tool used in crime prevention to recognize, appraise and anticipate loss potential. A security survey is an in-depth on-site examination of a home and its surrounding property. The survey is conducted to determine its deficiencies or security risks, to determine the protection needed, and to make recommendations to minimize criminal opportunity.

relationship between the Delaware State Police and the Kent County Crime Watch is the communication it allows between the citizens of Delaware and the troopers that serve them.

“The KCCW provides an environment where those that want to be involved in their communities, for instance; members of the KCCW, Home Owners Associations, Neighborhood Watch, etc., have the opportunity to interact directly with DSP personnel and address their concerns of crime, learn how to how to prevent crime, and pass along information that may be of value to investigations,” he said.

The state police also have an opportunity to “directly interact with the citizens in the community and pass along crime prevention tips such as informing residents in neighborhoods to close and lock their garage doors, lock your vehicle doors and don’t leave valuables in plain sight in a vehicle,” Maj. Purcell said.

KCCW members are taking an active role in making their communities safer, Maj. Purcell said.

“Through this, they build relationships with patrol officers by inviting them and the troop administration to their neighborhood watch meetings and other community events,” he said.

“The KCCW allows a situation where the citizens who want to get involved to improve their community can do so, at no cost except their time and energy.

“This is a great program and has been a huge success in Kent County where the organization has grown over the last several years.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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