County and city crime watch meet Saturday

ALBANY -- In an effort to create stronger ties between neighborhood groups fighting crime, a combined Albany-Dougherty County meeting of the organizations is planned for 9:30 a.m.Saturday.

The first combined Neighborhood Watch meeting of 2010 is scheduled in the Albany Police Department's Law Enforcement Center at 201 W. Oglethorpe Blvd.

"We had a meeting last year. I decided to step up and kind of spearhead the meeting this year," said Jerome Lowery, East Town Subdivision block captain. "It is a chance to network with other neighborhood watch leaders, and we can get questions answered by law enforcement officials."

As examples Lowery said he had questions about unsolved crimes, how to prevent crime and how to get youth involved in neighborhood watch.

Of the about 25 Neighborhood Watch groups in the city, Lowery had definite replies from about 20, he said. He was still contacting other groups about the meeting.

A meeting such as the one planned can be a good place to exchange ideas and phone numbers to bring the groups closer together, Lowery said.

'We have a lot of places with signs saying neighborhood watch, but criminals ignore them," Lowrey said. "We have to get together. We have to be able to call each other when something happens in the neighborhood."

If one neighborhood has a few burglaries, another neighborhood could be next, said Dougherty County Police Department Lt. Kenneth Johnson, Neighborhood Watch coordinator.

If the groups in the county and the city learn to share information on what goes on in their different areas it could help police, Johnson said.

"This meeting could be a good thing for people to come together and share ideas," Johnson said. "It is all about communication."

Whether it is county police, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office or the Albany Police Department, the message is the same. The police need people to speak up for themselves and their neighbors, Johnson said.

"It is the only way to take back your neighborhood," Johnson said. "You have to watch out for your neighbor and call us when you see something."

Johnson will send a representative to the meeting and he expects the four Neighborhood Watch groups in the county also will send representatives.

There has also been an upswing in people wanting to join or start watch groups, Johnson said. He felt that it was in response to increased crime during the present economic turndown.

That also holds true for the city, said Phyllis Banks, Albany police spokeswoman. The number of calls asking for information about starting or joining neighborhood crime-watch groups has increased noticeably in the past year, she said.

Albany police believe in the community being their eyes and ears on crime. Neighborhood watches have been of help to the police in the past, she added.

Helping Neighborhood Watch groups organize is part of police policy. The meeting could bring a greater cohesion between the groups and the department, Banks said.

"We will be ready to offer any advice and help we can at the meeting," Banks said. "There are about 25 groups in the city. Each of the districts -- east, west and central -- will have a police representative at the meeting."