Representatives of many of the 34 neighborhood watch programs in Albany and Dougherty County stand with city and county elected officials and police following a reception at the government center Monday. City and county leaders praised the groups for their efforts to help thwart crime throughout the area.
ALBANY -- When it comes to the concept of community-oriented policing and reducing crime at the street level, organized neighborhood watch groups are the tip of the spear.
They are often the ones who experience crime on a personal level either in their homes, on their streets or in their neighborhoods.
City and county leaders praised members of the 34 known groups in Albany and Dougherty County Monday for their dedication not only to ridding their streets of crime and drugs, but also for overcoming the apathy that grips much of the metro area.
After reading a proclamation honoring the groups, Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard urged them to continue their work and cooperation with local government and law enforcement while challenging them to reach out and get young people as involved as possible in their groups.
"For you all that are here, let me emphasize the importance of having a neighborhood watch," Howard said. "I would like to encourage the neighborhood watches ... (to) try and broaden your horizons, think outside the box, invite young folks to these meetings, because once we're confined to a nursing home or assisted living, they have to carry the torch."
Hayes, who helped push for the first recognition of neighborhood watches three years ago, tasked the group with helping grow watches from community to community to unify Albany and Dougherty County.
"When we set out three years ago to do this, this is what we had hoped to see: a room full of our friends and neighbors who had come together and were working with local government for something positive to make us better," Hayes said. "As you go back to your neighborhoods and continue the good work that you do, step outside of your neighborhoods too because ... we're a very good town, but we aren't a community yet.
"We're so fragmented and disjointed that it does not make for an inviting place for others to want to be," Hayes said. "But if we can replicate and duplicate what you're doing in your individual neighborhoods and it becomes contagious in Albany and Dougherty County, then we'll truly become a community."
The size and scope of the watch groups in the area vary widely, but officials with each say they're working to keep crime and drugs out of their respective backyards.
"We take pride in our community," Melvin George, a member of the South Dougherty Community League, told the group Monday. "We don't want the gangs. We don't want the crime and the drugs. We want a community we can be proud of."