Dearing residents met last Thursday evening for the second time to organize a Neighborhood Watch program. Approximately 13 residents met in the Town Hall including Mayor Sean Kelley, Town Council members and Maj. Ronnie Williamson of the McDuffie County Sherriff's Department. Councilman Judson Story was in charge of the meeting.
"Neighborhood Watch is simply a community getting together and being a community," Mr. Story said. "I know crime is not very big in this area, but rural areas are where they can sneak in and sneak back out. We need to learn what to watch for."
Residents at the meeting were from Magnolia Drive, Old Augusta Road, North Main Street, Old White Oak Road, First Street, Camellia Drive, and Quail Farm Road.
"The south side did good tonight. They showed up real well, now we need some residents from Ann Drive and Jerry Drive," Mayor Kelley said.
Mr. Story designated block captains who will spread the word of what's going on with Neighborhood Watch to their neighbors. Mr. Story said the block captains basically will just distribute literature. In case of an emergency requiring an evacuation, block captains can also be used to quickly contact a lot of residents, Mr. Story said.
After some discussion, a video was shown which further explained the program. According to the video, the extent of the program is determined by each individual neighborhood. Also, statistics given on the video state that a community that has a Neighborhood Watch program is four times less likely to have crime.
"The Sherriff's Department is extremely happy that Dearing is doing this," Maj. Williamson said after the meeting. "I wish everybody in McDuffie County would have (a Neighborhood Watch). It's a much better deterrent than a marked police car being parked on the street. It's one of the best things to happen to Dearing in a while."
Maj. Williamson also agreed with the video statements describing the limitations of the program, and said residents of Dearing are "right on track" with what they are doing.
"It's their organization to control. They make the rules and decide what they want to do. We're just here to support them," he said.
Mr. Story said he would like to focus on two problems that need to be addressed in Dearing - speeding drivers and brush fires. Mr. Story encouraged all residents to report repeated incidents of speeding by the same vehicle.
Also, he said several brush fires have been set on the side of the road on the outskirts of town recently. With the current dry weather conditions, Mr. Story said he is concerned the fires will spread and cause serious damage. He encouraged residents to report any suspicious activity they see on the side of the road.
The program is funded by the McDuffie County Sherriff's Department, which provides all the literature and information. Although the department will provide them, Mayor Kelley said Dearing will pay for the signs that are posted in neighborhoods.
Maj. Williamson said any resident can have a security inspection on their house by calling the Sherriff's Department at 595-2040, extension 228. A deputy will come to the residence and show the owner how a thief may enter, and offer tips on how to make the property less accessible to criminals.
"I'm excited about it. We've never had problems before, but there can always be a first time. It's good to live in a small town; I feel safe. But I think this is a good program, too," said Mary Wells, Dearing resident.
The next Neighborhood Watch meeting will be at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 6, at the Dearing Town Hall.