WCNWP director Jason Akins who also serves as a correctional officer with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, said this was the first meeting of its kind, but plans are in the works to hold meetings with all of the neighborhood watch captains every two or three months.
“The goal is to improve the safety of our communities, promote public involvement and better communication and partnerships between law enforcement and the public,” Akins said. “It’s our opportunity to take ownership and responsibility for our communities.”
Akins said each of the WCNW captains will be going out into their neighborhoods this summer and showing folks how they can secure their homes against crime.
“We’re also working on improving the way we look out for other neighborhood watch members,” Akins said. “The county’s Neighborhood Watch Program currently has about nine active groups with between 150 to 200 participants.”
Akins, who volunteers his own time to serve as the program’s director, said the county’s Neighborhood Watch Program was rapidly growing, but it was nothing new. The program was actually established in 2009 and Dayron Bridges, an investigator with the Sheriff’s Office, served as its director for several years.
“I have only been the director for the past year, and I’m grateful to Dayron for giving me this opportunity to serve our community in this capacity,” Akins said. “This was the first time I’ve had leaders from several of the groups come together in a single meeting. I’m hoping we can do this (hold a captain’s meeting) every two or three months so we can get everyone communicating with each other and working in the same direction.”
Akins said he firmly believes that if he can get hundreds of people in the county working together and communicating with each other and law enforcement, the results will be amazing.
“We have already seen some crimes prevented in neighborhoods where we have a neighborhood watch group organized in the county,” Akins said. “But it’s tough. Getting folks to participate in the program is hard.”
Akins said the biggest complaint he hears from members of the county’s neighborhood watch groups is they have a hard time getting people to participate in a given area.
“I just tell them the key to getting folks involved is consistency. If you stick with it and let folks know you’re out there and you’re for real, they’ll take notice. But if they still don’t want to participate, that’s fine too.”
Akins said after all the Neighborhood Watch Program is all about looking out for each other.
“We can’t take care of everybody, but we can take care of those who want to participate and help safe guard their property,” Akins said. “Several communities in Walker County currently have members who volunteer with the county’s Neighborhood Watch Program, and anyone who is interested can participate.”
These communities include Thach, Burrow’s Crossing (residents living on Burrow’s Crossing Road, Benny Short Road, Sunlight Road and Alabama Highway 69 North from the Walker/Cullman county line bridge to Blackwater Bridge), Manchester, Pleasant Hill, Pineywoods, Old Pineywoods Road, Burnwell and Heritage Hills.
“We have a brand new group that has just started at Saragossa, and we’re about to start one at Lamon’s Chapel, and several of the municipalities around the county have their own programs within their jurisdictions,” Akins said.
“Our goal is to put together a quality program that folks can really be a part of and use as an opportunity to make a difference in their communities.”
Te neighborhood watch program is about having a greater awareness of what is going on in your immediate neighborhood and community.
“We may have someone who is not able to get out as much, or make it to meetings, or check out a given area, but they can still watch their house and somebody else’s house,” Akins said. “All they have to do is follow some of the guidelines we have for their own safety. We have tip sheets on simple ways to secure your property and make it a little less inviting of a target, a little bit more criminal proof.”
Akins said little things like that help, because the harder it is in a given area, the less likely there will be crime there.
“Criminals look for areas with easy targets, not a lot of hard targets. Just by having a greater awareness of what is going on around us and communicating with each other, like our kinfolks used to do, will help,” Akins said.
“Our goal is to create a county-wide network between all the neighborhood watch groups and area law enforcement agencies to make it harder for the criminal element to conduct their activities in our county.”
Anyone interested in joining or organizing a neighborhood watch group in their community should call the Walker County Sheriff’s Office at 205-302-6464 and leave a message for Jason Akins or Dayron Bridges.
“We’ll contact you as soon as we can and provide you with all the information you need to help you get started,” added Akins.