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 Knightstown Crime Watch Meeting Draws Good Crowd

November 21, 2007 - Knightstown Crime Watch Meeting Draws Good Crowd

The first official meeting of the Knightstown Neighborhood Crime Watch drew about two dozen concerned citizens to the shelter house at Sunset Park Saturday afternoon.

Local businessman and town resident Jay Stearns, one of the fledgling program's three directors, said the group hopes to bring "a front porch mentality" back to Knightstown. “The best crime prevention that's ever been created,” he said, “along with law enforcement, is good neighbors.”

Stearns said the KNCW will have six primary objectives: getting people involved and maintaining their participation; reporting suspicious activity to the KPD; assisting and encouraging home inspections and cooperation between neighbors; assisting crime victims; encouraging neighbors to keep their eyes open and be witnesses; and helping the elderly and children.

“The most important aspect for the neighborhood crime watch is to get involved,” said Stearns. “Over time, we want to get better organized, stay in touch and grow in numbers.”

Stearns displayed a map showing the town divided into five geographical patrol areas he called “quadrants.” Each area will have one or more “quadrant leaders” who will be in charge of organizing “block captains” responsible for patrolling specific parts of their neighborhood.

Knightstown Chief of Police Danny Baker, one of two liaisons between the town's police department and the KNCW, explained the important role the group's members will play with respect to the KPD's law enforcement efforts.

“We can't be everywhere at once,” Baker said, noting that there is often only one KPD officer patrolling the town at any given time. “We need your eyes, your phone calls.”

The second liaison between the KPD and KNCW, Adrian Darling, made a similar comment, telling those in attendance, “You are the eyes of law enforcement in this town. … You, more than anybody, know what doesn't look right in your neighborhood.”

A former KPD officer and chief of police himself, Darling is now an officer with the New Castle Police Dept., a member of their SWAT team, and a deputy coroner for the county. A Knightstown resident who also works part-time as a KPD officer, Darling talked about crime in Knightstown and provided tips for crime watchers.

"The number one issue that seems to be prevalent in this community … is drugs," Darling said. "It's here. It's been here. Sometimes, we just don't want to realize it's here. … I'm here to tell you it's here." The presence of drug users in the community, he said, often leads to other crimes, like theft and burglaries.

Darling said most drug users are thieves who are unemployed and turn to theft to get money to feed their drug habits. "I guarantee you they're unemployed," he said. "I don't mean any disrespect to anyone in the room - please, pardon me - they're unemployed or they work construction. Most everyone I've dealt with is a thief. And I don't mean anything against the profession. What I'm saying is they use that as a crutch."

Baker told the crowd that there had been three deaths from drug overdoses in the past three months.

"That's three deaths too many - three needless deaths," he said. "Unfortunately, it took the death of that 18-year old to wake us up. … Every officer I've got is hard on drugs. My goal is to get drugs out of Knightstown. I need your eyes."

Baker said KPD busted an underage drinking party Friday night where drugs and alcohol were found, and that two adults were arrested. He also said an arrest at Sunset Park a month-and-a-half ago uncovered pot, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

Baker and Darling both provided cautionary advice to would-be crime watchers. "There will be absolutely no following (of suspects)," Baker said, correcting Stearns' earlier suggestion that citizens do just that. "I cannot allow anybody, as a citizen, to put themselves into jeopardy."

"Never, ever approach a drug deal," Darling cautioned. "Most generally, weapons are involved."

Darling also provided the group with tips on what kinds of things to pay attention to when they see something suspicious. "We need to pay attention to the little things," he said. "These are all things that can help us."

As for vehicles, Darling said it's more important for police to have a description of the color, make and model than the license plate number due to the fact that the license plates often don't match the vehicles criminals drive. With respect to people, he said it helps to have a physical description, particularly noting the person's gender and any observable details about their clothing.

"If somebody looks out of place, don't be afraid to call," Darling said. "That's what the purpose of this organization is."

Kevin Knott, one of the KNCW's other directors, said he hoped the group's membership would represent a good cross section from the community. "There really is a place for everyone to participate," he said.

Knott also added that he believed crime watching should become routine and part of the daily activities of the group's participants.

The group's third director, Dan Webber, displayed several bright, florescent yellow items of apparel - ball caps ($8), "toboggan" hats ($9), sweatshirts ($11), T-shirts ($6) and jackets ($45) - that are on sale at Main Street Threads to KNCW members. "We chose this color because we wanted something that would stand out," Webber said.

"This is another reason why you don't want to follow people," Darling joked. "You might stick out a little bit."

One point that was stressed during Saturday's meeting is that the KNCW is not funded by taxpayer money, but, instead, will rely on donations from individuals, businesses and other organizations. Webber also said the group intends to seek grant money, possibly through the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

Stearns said the group needs at least $2,500 to get things going. He said they have $500 now, as well as some commitments from a couple of area banks.

"In order to get the crime watch program up and going, we need your efforts, your skills, your ideas, your input," Stearns said. "If possible, we also need your financial support. We're not asking for donations. If you feel this is something that Knightstown needs and you feel like you can help, we would greatly appreciate it."

Knott encouraged those in attendance to reach out to others in their neighborhoods and for each of them to try to bring four or five people with them to the next meeting, which is scheduled for January 12 at 1 p.m. in the shelter house. Baker also stressed the importance of swelling the group's ranks.

"Spread the words to your neighbors," Baker said. "The more we get involved, the better off we are."


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