The Rev. Frank Young was elected coordinator and Sue Rogers treasurer.
The Oak Grove Neighborhood Watch chapter grew out of interest generated by information Councilwoman Sue Rogers received about public safety.
Young said there was a growing concern among residents when they realized that a lack of funding was stretching law enforcement agencies. “We’re basically out in the country here,” he said. “Neighborhood watch can assist the Sheriff’s Department in suppressing crime by alerting citizens to take personal responsibility.”
According to the USAonWatch website, Neighborhood Watch was officially organized in 1972 by the National Sheriff’s Association in response to requests to involve local citizens in crime prevention, especially in rural and suburban areas.
“Since its beginnings, Neighborhood Watch has grown from an ‘extra eyes and ears’ approach to crime prevention to a much more proactive, community-oriented endeavor providing a unique infrastructure that brings together local officials, law enforcement, and citizens for the protection of their communities.”
In 2002, the NSA partnered with USA Freedom Corps, Citizens Corps and the U.S. Department of Justice to form USAonWatch in an effort to revitalize the Neighborhood Watch initiative and expand its role.
Young attended an NSA conference in Nashville June 19-20, which included training events for local chapters of the Neighborhood Watch.
He said Neighborhood Watch is more than a theory. Months prior to the organizational meeting, Oak Grove residents were recruited to participate and received basic training. These efforts have already been tested, Young said.
It was reported during a meeting Thursday that recently men in a truck were sighted in a residential area. A resident came home to find the truck parked outside their garage and when confronted, the men said they were “out of gas.”
The security officer employed by Oak Grove responded to calls from residents and the truck left the area.
“This is how it works,” Young said. “Neighbors are put on high alert to prevent things from happening.”
According to the new chapter’s by-laws, the group will support law enforcement as well as cultivate safe streets and stimulate pride among residents.
The by-laws also stipulate: “We are a watch group. We are not a patrol. We do not pursue; we only observe and report. We do not use firearms during out service on Neighborhood Watch.”
The program is not limited to Oak Grove residents. Individuals living in areas contiguous to watch areas within the town can become members provided they attend at least three meeting/training events.
Young said each meeting will offer specific training in areas beneficial to members. Topics may range from planting the proper shrubs around a house to obtaining the proper materials for a “to go” bag.
At the meeting Thursday, Young presented a “to go” bag that contained several materials recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in case a family faces emergency situations. Young emphasized the need for the bag to include sufficient water and food for three days, as well as medications and other special items such as infant formula.
Contents of the bag should include items such as flashlights, first aid kits, battery-powered radios, and water. FEMA recommends storing one gallon of water for each person per day.
Young presented the materials in conjunction with National Preparation Month.
He said he hopes to expand the Neighborhood Watch program to address a network assisting with locating lost children, adults with Alzheimer’s and related diseases, and lost pets.
The Oak Grove Neighborhood Watch will meet monthly. Secondary meetings with watch captains will meet as needed, Young said.