OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ They’re making the Port City safer, one neighborhood at a time.
The next Neighborhood Watch Committee meeting will be held on Oct. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Oswego Library – downstairs.
The program is an organized system to maintain protection and safety in the Oswego neighborhoods.
The meeting will be facilitated by Common Council President Dan Donovan (R-Fifth Ward), Oswego Police Lt. Tom Nicholson, and Second Ward resident Betty Gray.
“All we really ask for is extra ears and eyes,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Nicholson said at a previous meeting.
The veteran police officer made suggestions of steps to take to ensure safety in neighborhoods.
This includes making sure your own home is safeguarded and your property is labeled, such as putting your initials on items that are kept in garages or sheds. Also, confide in neighbors you know and trust when you will be leaving your home for a long period of time. Keep home and car doors locked and be attentive. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and people that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œdonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seem to belong.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Gray has spearheaded the program the past three years.
“When in doubt, she said, donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hesitate to alert the police and they will come and check out your area.
The Neighborhood Watch has started to improve the quality of life around the city, she said.
On Oct. 14, the program will be detailed and participants will learn what they can do to help keep their neighborhoods safe.
“We had 60 people attend the last meeting,” Gray said. “I hope and pray that there will be even more this time.”
It’s a community effort, she stressed, adding it’s nothing to do with politics.
Neighborhood Watch is a not-for-profit program, she pointed out.
“A lot of people don’t know that. People still don’t know what a Neighborhood Watch group is all about,” Gray said. “All residents of the city, it doesn’t matter what ward you live in, are invited to our next meeting.”
Educating people about the program has been difficult, she said.
“That’s why we are having these kinds of meetings. The more people that know about Neighborhood Watch and the more people that are involved, the better for the whole community,” Gray said.
A few years ago, Gray got together with then Second Ward Councilor Barb Donahue to get the Neighborhood Watch under way.
Gray put a sign up in her window saying that she is a member of the Neighborhood Watch, which seemed to make improvements in her neighborhood, she noted.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI have a sign up in my window about the Neighborhood Watch program. I got harassed on it, but it calmed the place down and itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s quiet on my block now,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â explained Gray.
When she first started, she was harassed by vandals in the early morning hours throwing soda bottles and firecrackers at her house, she recalls.
“But I called the police and they always came and took care of things,” she said. “Now, the people that were doing that have stopped ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ they know the cops are going to be coming for them. We’ve come a long way.”
Police Chief Michael Dehm encourages neighbors to work together to create a Neighborhood Watch.
According to the chief, in order to have a successful Neighborhood Watch program you need about 50 percent of your neighbors to buy into it.
Residents from every ward are encouraged to come to the meeting with ideas, concerns and a suggestion for the structure of their own Neighborhood Watch program, Donovan said.
“You have to have the guts and willpower to stand up for a better community. We can’t let a few people tear it down,” Gray said. “When I first started and was getting harassed, there were plenty of times that I wanted to give up and just quit, sure,” she admits. “But, I said to myself, ‘you cannot quit. We need to keep going for a better community.'”