Chief encourages watch program

GLOVERSVILLE – After reports of gunshots and a stabbing rippled through Gloversville in August 2011, residents crowded City Hall for neighborhood watch meetings, but since that time, participation has steadily diminished, city officials said.

However, the need for neighborhood watch programs in the city hasn’t diminished, city officials say. They are encouraging Gloversville citizens to attend the upcoming citywide neighborhood watch meeting Monday.

“We are struggling to have people be involved and stay involved,” Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said.

He said the neighborhood watch gives police more eyes and ears in the community.

“The meetings also give the public the opportunity to come in and ask questions about how the police department is working for them,” the chief said. “I’m there and always willing to answer those questions, but for the most part, we aren’t getting people to those meetings and there isn’t a lot of dialogue.”

He also said people who are timid about calling police directly can use the watch to their benefit.

Typically, each watch can designate one person or a group of people who are willing to talk to police about what their neighbors report, providing a safe, anonymous way for people afraid of retribution to give information about their observations, he said.

“We would like there to be groups in their own neighborhoods, but unfortunately, there are not enough people stepping up to form these groups,” said 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, who has been leading the meetings with VanDeusen.

VanDeusen said in the past, local neighborhood watch groups have given authorities useful information about crimes, including larceny, burglary, assaults, trespassing and drug dealing.

He said last year was a quiet year in terms of violent crimes, but in light of recent reports of crime in the city, such as an assault and shooting on Fremont Street and vandalism at a Division Street apartment, he expects more participation at future meetings.

“Several people out there voice their mostly negative opinions [about crime] on Facebook or newspaper blogs, but I have an open door here, and these people don’t come to me or these meetings to offer solutions or ask questions,” VanDeusen said. “It’s easier today with social media to hide behind the computer and complain than it is to come to these meetings and try to be a part of the solution. I invite people to come be a part of the solution.”

Wentworth said neighborhood watches give neighbors a way to get to know one another.

“It connects people with their neighbors,” Wentworth said. “Sometimes, we don’t know our neighbors, so it makes that connection and starts participation in the community where we all look out for each other. We are trying to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

The meetings take place on the second Monday of every month at City Hall at 6 p.m.

VanDeusen said people who want to start a neighborhood watch in their neighborhood can invite officers to their meetings to help the group get started.