Youth Violence Prevention Looking For Volunteers

Chief Stephen Garnett addresses a group of concerned citizens about the proposed measures to combat the problem of youth violence.

Winslow Police Chief Stephen Garnett, along with Steve Zukowski from the Weed and Seed Program, is about to launch a professional organization of “watchdogs” that will report crimes or suspicious happenings to the authorities.

Volunteers are required to devote only four hours each month of watch time to the group. Volunteers will assist the police department by being the “eyes and ears on the streets” and are not required to take any enforcement action.

Volunteers will sign up to watch a certain area at a certain time. They have the option to walk, ride a bike or drive their vehicle. The police department will provide them with cell phones so they can easily report a problem to the police.

“The whole purpose is to prevent crime,” Garnett said.

Applications to become part of the professional organization are available at City Hall and will also be available at the next Gang Prevention Committee meeting on August 9. Garnett is asking that those who wish to be part of this organization complete the application quickly. He is hoping to start with at least 30 volunteers.

“We are trying to build a professional organization and we need [citizens] to help,” Garnett said.

He added that the most important part of the organization is to develop a relationship between citizens and the police department. “We need to be on a first name basis,” Garnett said.

If a citizen witnesses a crime in progress or a suspicious situation and wants to report the situation anonymously, they should call 289-2431 or CrimeStoppers at 289-2100.

They should not call 9-1-1. When 9-1-1 receives a call, the computer records the name and address assigned to that telephone number. For anonymous reports concerning police officers, Garnett also asked citizens to report if they see any officer doing something suspicious or wrong directly to him.

He also reported that police officers have begun wearing microphones so that conversations can be recorded and reviewed. According to Garnett, this is to ensure respectful conversations from both the officer and the citizens they are speaking to. Cameras have also been installed in every patrol car and when the flashing lights are turned on the camera starts to record.

Along with protecting both officer and citizen, video and audio tapes can also be used for training purposes to illustrate different ways to handle a situation.

Garnett also reported the police department is going through some changes. He now requires officers to make non-business, positive contacts each day. “Policing is getting out and knowing people, not just driving around,” he said.

Garnett feels getting the department involved in the community is an essential element in stopping violence and crimes. He is trying to get the police force involved with the Big Brother and Big Sister programs. “I’m all about the kids, you can’t get a reward better than helping kids,” Garnett said.

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