Keeping crime down in North Logan through Neighborhood Watch
By Lynnette Hoffman
"It's such a nice place to live, I don't want to see it getting bad because of apathy, or because of denial, or because of ignorance, or not understanding what's going on," said Sallie Petersen, who oversees the Neighborhood Watch, and McGruff Safety Houses in North Logan.
Preventing crime, rather than reacting to it, is the focus of COPS, said Chairman Pat Northenor. The group formed in March 1999, after she attended a county-wide training session. Northenor's involvement in North Logan's disaster planning committee lead her to create a Neighborhood Watch so the two groups could compliment each other in case of an emergency.
"If there was an earthquake or something and houses were down and we had people living in tents here in the park, the Neighborhood Watch people would know who belonged in the area and who didn't," Northenor said. "They would basically be our civilian police force that kept an eye out for loiters and gang members and people that didn't really belong in the area."
But with no major catastrophes, it is difficult to recruit volunteers in a town as quaint as North Logan. Crimes often go unreported and un-talked about; so many residents are unaware of any problems.
"The better we work, the less they think we're needed," Northenor said.
Yet in the past two years, two rapes have been reported, thefts and drug arrests have increased, and graffiti, a warning sign of gang activity, is on the rise.
The program is currently concentrated in Greenville, where Petersen and Northenor reside, but they hope it will expand throughout the city. Greenville has higher amounts of crime and drug instances than most of North Logan, possibly due to the temporary, lower socioeconomic housing, Petersen said.
North Logan police Chief Kim Hawkes has been supportive of the program, helping it receive a grant to fund projects like identification kits, which include photos and thumbprints of school age children. COPS travels to health and safety fairs throughout Northern Utah, holding demonstrations on topics ranging from bicycle safety to Internet safety.
The group also participates in the National Night Out Against Crime, held each year in August. This year COPS plans to help increase awareness on car seat safety. Officers will be out inspecting car seats, free of charge. If a seat doesn't meet the safety standards, parents can enter a raffle for a chance to win one of ten free car seats.
In addition, Chief Hawkes visited local schools to inform children about the McGruff Safety houses which is in Petersen's juristiction. The houses provide a place for kids to go if they are in danger, afraid, or even for seemingly minor concerns like bullies. Background checks are run on families wishing to participate in the program, and members of the household over the age of 18 are trained to deal with emergency situations. Marked with a numbered "McGruff, the crime dog" sticker, safety houses are placed strategically in neighborhoods, ideally one to a street.
Residents can also call 787-7475 to leave anonymous messages on a tip line for non-emergency problems. Callers reach an answering service which police check daily. Anything suspicious or strange can be reported, but less serious annoyances, such as a neighbor's dog barking too loudly, will also be dealt with via the tip line. Besides decreasing conflicts between neighbors, the tip line helps police know which parts of town could use extra surveillance, Petersen said.
The Neighborhood Watch encourages neighbors to get to know each other and to be observant. It does more than stop intruders; Petersen once prevented her neighbor's house from flooding when she noticed a faucet had been running when no one was home.
"Be a little nosey, not into peoples lives, but into their property," Petersen said.
Being aware of little things like what cars neighbors drive, what their names are, or when they will be out of town, can prevent problems, Northenor said.
To become involved in any of the activities sponsored by COPS, contact
Pat Northenor at 752-7607, or Sallie Petersen at 753-6843.