For the first time in many years, city residents are banding together to combat crime.
Two new neighborhood watch groups are now patrolling Tega Cay. Longtime resident Bill Birchfield worked with Tega Cay Police Department Detective Buddy Spence to establish a citizen watch group for the Pago Pago Drive area and more recently, a
second group has organized to patrol Koala Park.
Neither police nor the residents involved in the watch groups can recall how long it's been since the city's last neighborhood watch was organized or when it disbanded, only that it's been a long time.
"Many years ago, I headed up the neighborhood watch group for the police department," Capt. Dave Nelson of the TCPD said.
One thing is clear, however; Residents have been hearing more about crimes being reported in the city than they're comfortable with.
Crime statistics provided by the TCPD for a period that covers Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 show 630 investigations that led to 138 arrests. Those include two arrests for forcible rape, four for aggravated assault, 13 for simple assault, one car theft and two burglary/breaking and entering charges.
In addition, the city's police department wrote 1,036 citations, 374 warning tickets and 202 ordinance tickets in that time.
Asked if those numbers are an indication of rising crime in the growing city, Nelson said he thinks it's proportional.
"It is what it is," Nelson said. "I don't have a comparison for past years, but I think the ratios from year to year are probably in line with the growth."
City police organized a meeting last week to bring the two new watch groups together and tell them how to work in concert with local law enforcement. Police officers also want to establish a rapport with the residents.
"I want the people to know that we police officers will do our jobs, but will also wave, talk to you, and help with keeping the neighborhoods safe," Cpl. Duane Clay said.
According to Birchfield, residents involved in the patrols are interested not only in combatting crime, but being closer neighbors.
"We have had a good turnout of neighbors and not only are people looking to prevent crimes, but are meeting each other and sharing information," he said. "We have a sign up on Molokai Drive as you enter our area to warn those wanting problems that we are watching out for each other."
Spence said having residents act as the eyes and ears of the department can be invaluable.
"We want to protect the families, homes and neighborhoods and this is a preventative measure," he said. "Too many times when we are conducting an investigation, we will have someone say that they saw someone or something, but did not want to bother the police with a phone call. Sometimes, nosey neighbors can help prevent crimes by phoning 911 or [the TCPD at] 548-0340 to report something suspicious or something out of the ordinary that they see in their neighborhood."
Want to get involved?
The next meeting involving the city's two watch groups and the police department will be held sometime in November. For more information, call 548-0340.