OSWEGO, NY â€“ Recently, approximately 80 Second Ward residents crowded into the Ponzi Recreation Center at Fort Ontario to discuss problems plaguing the area.
The meeting was facilitated by Mike Myers, the ward’s councilor. Oswego Police Lt. Charles Searor and Juvenile Officer Sue Coffey were also on hand to take questions from the residents.
The neighbors are concerned with the amount of vandalism, obscene language and all around mischief by some of the youth in the area, Myers said.
At the meeting some residents suggested taking a firm approach to the offending youth; others pointed out kids will be kids and if you respect them, they will respect you.
Several of the residents were upset because they feel the police aren’t doing enough to curb the problem.
Coffey described the laws regarding juveniles and pointed out that even if a youngster is arrested and goes through the court system, people won’t find out about it because of the confidentiality laws involved.
Betty Gray, coordinator of the Oswego Neighborhood Watch Program, suggested residents put a motion light outside of their houses.
“It’s sad we have to do this, but it will help to protect you and your property. If your neighbor is looking out for you, you will feel better and this is what the neighborhood watch is all about. Being part of the Neighborhood Watch is all about helping, even if you dislike your neighbor you should do what is right and report any concerns,” she said.
“For a first meeting I think it went very well,” Myers said. “There were times when a lot of people were talking all at once. There are a lot of issues and we need to address them.”
Residents should call the police and the police need to have more of a presence in the ward, he said.
The alderman said he will use the issues and comments raised at the meeting to plan for another ward gathering. The next meeting, he explained, would be more formal with a panel including himself, the mayor, police chief and others.
Speakers would be limited to address the panel one at a time, for 3 to 5 minutes.
“This stuff has to be addressed,” Myers said. “We have to stay on top of it.”
The Neighborhood Watch Program is something that can help curb many of the problems, he noted.
The last neighborhood watch meeting was held in January. About 26 people attended, according to Gray.
“There were a few new faces, too,” she said.
Their motto is “We Look Out For Each Other.”
So far there have been 24 “watch” signs put up by the city’s traffic department, and six more will be put up in the spring.
In 2009, 730 stickers were put in windows or doors.
“Lt. Tom Nicholson has been a police officer for 19 1/2 years and spoke at quite a few neighborhood watch program meetings,” Gray said. “This is the first group that has lasted, he said. It is up to the community to get involved. All the police are asking for from the community is a phone call. We don’t want people going out and trying to take care of it themselves and getting hurt.”
“We basically let people know that this is a program that helps the police help them. It’s not sanctioned by the police, it’s not run by the police, it’s headed by the people like Betty who are trying to make this community a better place to live,” Nicholson said.
A neighborhood watch can be just one person keeping an eye on their property and being kind enough to look out for their neighbors, too, he added.
“Hopefully, it catches on. We have pockets of neighborhood watches all around the city. They’re scattered all over and some of them are as little as just two households,” he said.
Gray said she’d like to see the public come to the meetings and ask questions and volunteer.
“They could help out, like doing a monthly news letter, make copies, and come up with ideas to make money for the program,” she said. “This is all about the neighborhoods and people helping each other.”
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 20 at the Oswego Public Library, 120 E. Second St., from 6 to 8 p.m.
In the first 15 minutes, guest speakers Judy Coe Rapaport and Mary Vanouse will talk about the new Community Development Garden.
Following right after will be an open meeting. All city residents are welcome to attend.
“The program has expanded and is growing with the help from the community. I would like to thank the people that are using there eyes and ears and calling the police,” Gray said.
For more information, call Gray at 342-9388 or email at [email protected]