Law enforcement kicks off community policing meetings

Published 5:18 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunny View meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Local law enforcement officers began community police meetings Tuesday, March 13 in Columbus to work with residents to protect neighborhoods.
The Columbus meeting drew only one resident, Doug Bridges, who was representing the Camp Skyuka Homeowners Association.
Deputy Ronnie Russell with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Officer JJ Sauve with the Tryon Police Department talked about how residents can get involved and reviewed safety tips, including information for seniors and domestic violence victims. The officers also reviewed what services are currently available through local law enforcement.
Other officers involved in the community police meetings and training are Sgt. Nick Stott with the Columbus Police Department and Officer Brent Cantrell with the Saluda Police Department.
“Community policing is citizens and law enforcement working together to try to prevent and solve crimes,” Sauve said.
Russell said local officers want to work with residents to help train them to set up neighborhood watches. He said community watch groups help officers by being the eyes and ears of a neighborhood and by helping neighbors in situations that don’t involve law enforcement.
Community watches may involve having trustworthy people in the neighborhood knowing who is out of town at what time and giving a house key to a community watch captain or member. All local law enforcement departments also have a house check, where officers will patrol a house when a resident is out of town and check doors and windows to make sure there has been no suspicious activity.
Russell said community watches are helpful in solving crimes because an officer may patrol an area and think nothing of a certain vehicle being there but neighbors know which vehicles belong and which might be suspicious.
“Without cooperation between residents and law enforcement a lot of these crimes can’t be solved,” Russell said. “You are eventually our eyes and ears.”
Russell also said that community watch is not a vigilante group. Officers said residents should not take the law in their own hands.
“Taking the law in your own hands is not what we want,” Russell said. “We don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way. Call us.”
The community policing idea began when Sauve and Russell attended Gillette Woods community watch meetings in Tryon. Sauve said following that, officers decided to get everyone in the county on the same page with the same training.
Local law enforcement has also been working to get the Foothills Crimestoppers reorganized as the phone line is currently not available.
Officers said they are willing to train individual neighborhoods and will agree to meet in someone’s home if necessary to train residents. Officers also have a program to do home and business security assessments, in which a trained officer will give a home or business owner tips to make a building more secure.
Anyone interested in starting a community watch program in their area or in receiving safety tips is encouraged to attend the community policing meetings. The next meeting is tonight at the Sunny View Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.
Next Wednesday, March 21, officers will be at the Mill Spring Fire Department. On Thursday, March 22, a meeting will be held at the Green Creek Family Life Center; on Monday, March 26, a meeting will be held at the Tryon Fire Department and on Tuesday, March 27, a meeting will be held at the Saluda Fire Department. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Agencies are currently working on funding for equipment such as signs. Donations for the community police program can be sent to the sheriff’s office or any town police department.

Community police meetings
Area                Location                       Date
Sunny View    Sunny View School    Thurs., March 15
Mill Spring
/Pea Ridge    Mill Spring Fire Dept.    Wed., March 21
Green Creek    Green Creek
/Sandy Plains    Family Life Center    Thursday, March 22
Tryon    Tryon Fire Department    Monday, March 26
Saluda    Saluda Fire Department    Tuesday, March 27
Note: all meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.

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