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Neighborhood watch members meet APD

ALBANY, Ga. -- The idea of a combined neighborhood watch meeting Saturday was to bring the various groups together to exchange information, contact numbers and thoughts on making neighborhoods safe.

"We are going to have mostly a question and answer session with police today," said Jerome Lowery, East Town Subdivision block captain. "This was the only time we had to schedule the meeting.

Probably because of Easter weekend there are a lot of people out of town."

The County and City Neighborhood Watch Association meeting at the Albany Police Department's Law Enforcement Center drew about 30 watch members, police and city officials at 10 a.m.

The first 2010 meeting in February drew more than 100 participants.

The lower turnout did little to deter the enthusiasm of the participants as they peppered police Chief John Proctor, police officers and others with questions and ideas.

"Everyone worried about someone finding out who they are and afraid to call the police," said Willie Ross. "You don't want to call the police? Call me. I'll call the police and I'll be there in court with them when it comes to trial."

That enthusiasm carried through all the discussions between the neighborhood watch members and the police. Sgt. Greg Elder explained how police needed cooperation from the public to better do its job to an appreciative crowd.

"Intelligence is the most valuable thing we can get from the community.

Simply knowing the people can put us in the right position to act on crime," Elder said. "We need to know which houses in the neighborhood are law enforcement friendly and which are not."

The need for detailed information was emphasized by Elder. Community members should make note of suspicious cars, get license plate numbers and accurate descriptions of people among other detailed information, he said.

"Everyone in this room is part of the problem if they are not reporting it (suspicious activity by suspicious people)," Elder said. "Ever since Chief Proctor has been here, he has given us targets for excellence, but we need your help."

Other topics such as parents taking responsibility for the actions of their children, quality of life issues such as all terrain vehicles tearing up the road, loud boom-box music from vehicles and juveniles being disruptive in the streets came up for discussion.

Each situation has a different approach from the police, officials said.

The first thing is to call the problem in so that police know about it.

Police response time to calls was another question neighborhood watch members had for the police. Before giving his cell number to the group police Lt. James Williams said he wanted to hear about it if there were missed calls.

"You should have the cell phone numbers of all the supervisors," Williams said. "Call us first. Hold us accountable. If we fail to show up, call the chief."

There seemed to be a bit of confusion about which numbers to call on which occasion. Chief Proctor straightened it out.

Always call 911 for an emergency, Proctor said. Other numbers such as the non-emergency police dispatch number (229) 431-2100 and the police office number (229) 431-2132 can be called for other matters.

"The (911) dispatchers have rules to follow for emergency calls. They are prioritized. If it is a hot call, a crime in progress, burglary, rape, robbery -- call 911," Proctor said. "If it is a call you want answered but not an emergency, call the other numbers."

Anonymous calls can be made to report crimes to Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or (229) 431-3288. The Spanish speaking APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677, said Phyllis Banks, police spokeswoman.

Tricia Borsdorf explained the uses of the 311 service. The number can be used to access information about the city, Dougherty County or water Gas & Light services, she said.

The number also serves to put residents in touch with the right department so that they can have their concerns about things such as potholes in the streets taken care of, Borsdorf said.

The next combined neighborhood watch meeting will be scheduled for July.