MOULTRIE -- The Moultrie Police Department established its second neighborhood watch group Tuesday in Southwest Moultrie. The meeting establishing the watch group was attending by more than 60 community residents.

The Community-Oriented Policing (COP) program, led by Moultrie Police Sgt. Alfonzo Cook, is establishing neighborhood watch groups throughout the city of Moultrie. The city was divided into 10 segments, with each segment having a community-led watch program.

The watch group established Tuesday covers everything east of West Boulevard to West Central Avenue and running south of South Main Street. It is being called the Willie Williams area.

Moultrie Police Chief Frank Lang said he was excited to see the police department partner with the community for the neighborhood watch. He hoped to see the spirit demonstrated by the attendance Tuesday to spread throughout the city and reduce the crime and nuisance problems in Moultrie.

The neighborhood watch program is not looking for citizens to be policemen, but Lang said it is being established to help residents concerned about their community.

Cook said the original neighborhood watch program was started in 1972 by the National Sheriff's Association to help decrease growing crime rates. When it was established, society was becoming more mobile, neighborhoods became more deserted and neighbors began keeping more to themselves.

After neighborhood watches were begun, Cook said, statistics of specific crimes such as burglary dropped by as much as 75 percent, and crime rates in general dropped. The watches worked because residents began taking a more active role in making their community safe.

The neighborhood watch programs are being established now because Moultrie has seen great numbers of crime, Cook said. In 2004, Moultrie police worked two homicides, 13 rapes, 58 robberies, 353 burglaries, 1,012 larcenies, 70 aggravated assaults, 101 automobile thefts and seven arsons. The 43 sworn officers of the Moultrie Police Department are asking residents, through the watch programs, for their help.

"We're asking for your help to make the city of Moultrie a better place to live," Cook said.

The benefits to having a neighborhood watch include a reduction in the risk of being a victim of crime, being better prepared to respond to suspicious activity, having greater access to criminal activity information, receiving a neighborhood watch sign and knowing neighbors, Cook said.

The Moultrie City Council and Moultrie Fire Department are also playing a role in the establishment of the neighborhood watches. Moultrie Fire Chief Kenneth Hannon said his department is assisting to find and clear vacant lots and other nuisance problems. The fire department, however, needs help from residents to inform them about the lots.

Moultrie Police Capt. Tommy Rabon, a resident of Moultrie for almost 17 years, said the neighborhood watch programs have been successful in the past.

Before the meeting was adjourned, the residents chose Max Herndon as watch president and Linda Hamilton as secretary for their area. Block captains will be selected by the group before its next meeting, scheduled for March 8.

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