“The Gathering of the Watches” was a success Tuesday evening as neighbors in the Bradley County community came together to learn more about keeping their neighborhoods safe.
The “Gathering” was a National Night Out event.
“If it doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t,” said Lt. Bob Hancock, coordinator of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Neighborhood Watch program.
Hancock explained the importance of neighbors watching out for neighbors.
“Our communities need this more than ever,” he said.
A recent rash of criminal activity in south Bradley County resulted in numerous burglaries.
One suspect has been identified in one of the burglaries and investigators continue to work with several law enforcement agencies in the area to solve the string of burglaries.
Heavy saturation patrols along with “neighbors watching out for neighbors” put the brakes on the occurrences and officials are confident the burglaries will be solved, according to Capt. David Shoemaker of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division.
“This is what it takes,” Hancock said, explaining the importance of the program that is designed to have communities working with law enforcement through education on how to curb criminal activity.
A number of Neighborhood Watch coordinators were recognized Tuesday evening at the Dale R. Hughes Gymnasium where the event was held.
Sarah E. Locke, a Walker Valley High School junior, was interested in forming a watch program in her Charleston neighborhood.
She is in the Criminal Justice program at WVHS and is looking at several options for her future as an attorney.
“Our neighbors also need to watch out for each other,” said Locke.
“Recently, Charleston Elementary was the victim of a theft of several iPads that were used by the younger students. The person who took them also took the opportunity of learning away,” Locke said.
Locke said she has a plan in place for Charleston and will be contacting residents not only on her street, but other areas as well.
“My brother is a student at Charleston and to know that a person illegally entered the school and took property used for learning is not acceptable. Everyone needs to be on the watch when it comes to acts such as this,” she said.
Coincidentally, a suspect is in custody and neighbors near the school were able to identify him and help investigators establish a timeline of events surrounding the thefts.
“I am very proud of our young people stepping up to help fight crime in their neighborhoods,” Hancock said.
“Sarah isn’t the only young organizer we have. Zach Gallegos is a 17 year-old who organized the Silver Springs community,” Hancock added.
According to Hancock, 56 Neighborhood Watch programs have already been established, but none in Charleston.
During the National Night Out event Tuesday, he said four new organizers came forth to work with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to learn about setting up the program in their neighborhoods.
“We already have plans set in Royal Oaks and the Anatole areas,” Hancock said.
“As I said before, Bradley County needs Neighborhood Watch areas more than ever right now,” Hancock said.
For more information on how to establish a watch, contact Hancock at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office at 728-7321.