CARBON HILL - The Carbon Hill City Council on Thursday held an extended discussion about a number of people walking in the middle of the night in neighborhoods, with the police chief urging people to call in the middle of the night as they see suspicious activity.
District 3 Councilwoman April Kennedy Herron brought up the matter Thursday. Mayor Mark Chambers was absent due to a personal matter, and his brother, District 5 Councilman Jason Chambers, was also absent. District 1 Councilman McClain Burrough chaired the meeting.
Herron said she was concerned about the situation and asked Police Chief Eric House what could be done.
"If they are out past 10:30 and you call in, if we make contact with that person, we will stop them," House said. "We'll ID them and find out who they are, what they are doing and basically who, what, where, when and why. Why are you here this late at night?"
House said out of the number of arrests he mentioned earlier in the meeting, about half are from stopping and talking with people.
"We're finding people with warrants. We're finding people with paraphernalia," he said, noting earlier in the meeting the officers are doing a good job. "If you see someone out walking, call the office," he said.
Herron said she was on Nauvoo Road recently in an area near Mill Creek Store and the old Christian school. She called in a walker, who caused a truck to swerve, which in turn almost caused her to have a wreck.
"It is getting to be a real problem and this was like at 10 o'clock" at night. "This wasn't severely late but it wasn't early in the evening, either."
House said, "If those people will call us and we can get to them and make contact with them, I assure you we will keep them out of the roads and we'll keep them out of your yards, too, if we can catch them. All of the guys have been responding to these things and they've been doing pretty good."
He said if one is just walking their dog at night, for example, they can't put that person in jail, but they can at least check and see who they are.
Tracy Johnson, a citizen in the audience, said a month ago she encountered walkers at 2 a.m.
"This guy walks by there every night. Two or three times a day he walks past our place and he has a pack of dogs with him," she said. "The dogs came up on to my porch and I came running out at 2 a.m. in my T-shirt."
She said he apologized for the dogs, but two other individuals, not associated with each other, also started walking through the area at that time, making for three altogether on her street.
The previous night a similar situation happened, and she said the women talked about it on Facebook. Herron said she has had conversations with others having the same issues.
Johnson said the walkers go by swiftly and by the time she reaches police, the walkers are gone. "These folks are up to no good at 2 a.m. and all other hours, all during the day with their backpacks," she said.
House said his men are riding the roads, noting tracking devices are on the police vehicles which cannot be altered by officers.
"I can look at where they have been, how often they have been by there, how long they stayed. I can see all that," he said. "All I can do is maybe hire a part-time guy and put two people on every shift if I can."
Herron said she has heard conflicting reports on whether the city has a curfew, but others at the meeting said that was for children.
Johnson said, "With the way our city is right now, with the drugs and thieving going on now, I think it is a special exception versus walking your dog."
Burrough said if one area has had several reports of walking, special patrolling might need to take place in that area.
Herron said one walker is coming through her yard repeatedly.
"It is frustrating. It is driving me nuts," she said. "My dogs goes crazy. I wish to God my dog would get him because it is frustrating to have people pilfering through your stuff. You can hear them in the sheds. You can hear them walking. It is aggravating, and I am really getting sick of it, to be honest with you. It is all the time - all the time."
House said if a report is filed, the police can go after that person for trespassing on property. Herron said she is not going to call every night.
"I don't care if you call 100 times. I really don't. Call, because that will put a unit in that area," House said in time. "If (the officer) is checking other businesses somewhere else and you call, they better go. If they don't, you call me at 2 o'clock in the morning and wake me up. I'll come and find out where they are at and what they are doing."
Officials also discussed the problem of people waiting until the next day to call instead of the moment it happened.
Some discussion was about whether a father and two juveniles were involved, with House saying some of the people discussed had been in and out of the city jail, while other cases were also discussed. Some suggested they might also be homeless.
Burrough suggested looking into starting a neighborhood watch program in the city, adding that the city probably didn't have the finances to hire additional officers. He asked House to present more details at the Nov. 8 council meeting about a potential Neighborhood Watch program.
Ben Guess said he purchased some property and is still catching people trespassing on property, where he has found needles and alcohol in the past, and have discovered they have damaged property before. Signs are posted to warn not to trespass. He urged House to arrest any trespassers there that they find, as he will agree to press charges.