Concerned with an increase in local crime, the Bismarck Community Action Committee is seeking formation of a neighborhood watch program in the rural city of 1,500 residents located in west St. Francois County.
“We’re holding an organizational meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 23, in the Bismarck High School commons area,” said Valerie Craig, committee member “A representative from the St. Francois County Sheriff’’s Office will be in attendance, as well as a representative from our local police department. This is the first service project of our new organization.”
A neighborhood watch — also called a crime watch or neighborhood crime watch — is an organized group of citizens devoted to crime and vandalism prevention within a neighborhood. It builds on the concept of a town watch which was often a means of providing law enforcement in Colonial America. Neighborhood watches are not vigilante organizations. When suspecting criminal activities, members are encouraged to contact authorities and not to intervene.
The current American system of neighborhood watches began developing in the late 1960s as a response to the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, N.Y. People became outraged after reports that a dozen witnesses did nothing to save Genovese or to apprehend her killer. Some locals formed groups to watch over their neighborhoods and to look out for any suspicious activity in their areas. Shortly thereafter, the National Sheriffs’ Association began a concerted effort in 1972 to revitalize the “watch group” effort nationwide.
Bismarck Mayor Dennis Mayberry has expressed his support for the Community Action Committee’s efforts in starting a neighborhood watch program. At a recent city meeting he said that programs such as neighborhood watch, involving local citizenry working in conjunction with local law enforcement, serve as a positive reinforcement against crime. He noted that other area communities have been experiencing growing crime rates in recent years, as well.
“I’m planning to be in attendance at Saturday’s meeting to let the people of Bismarck know that I’m behind this program and hope others will come out, too.”
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at email@example.com.