EATON – Police, city officials and 34 members of the public met on Thursday, Aug. 18, for the yearly Neighbors Against Crime meeting.
As Eaton does not have an official neighborhood watch – but plenty of concerned citizens who patrol the neighborhoods – this meeting was utilized as a way for the Eaton Police Division to meet and discuss future plans for Neighbors Against Crime, which would operate like a typical neighborhood watch program.
Led by Chief Chad DePew, the meeting was broken into opening remarks by both the Chief and Mayor David Kirsch and then three sections led by individuals with intimate knowledge of police protocols: Sergeant Steve Hurd, Assistant Prosecutor Eric Marit, and Sergeant Eric Beeghly.
Kirsch opened the meeting by stating, “When you think about the stuff going on in our neighborhoods, it just bewilders us sometimes. I know we’ve had some good groups come out to try to help our police department, to give them an idea of who’s doing what and what’s going on.”
This was one of the main focuses of the meeting. There have been community members taking their time to ensure their neighborhoods are safe.
Kirsch added, “I ran into a group of people the other night. These folks were out walking our parks checking for needles. Isn’t that sad? But do you know what’s good about that? We have concerned citizens who care about our youth and care about other people.”
The mayor shared his own, and the police department’s, appreciation for these groups. They even recognized two of the groups who were in attendance.
The first was Preble County Community Outreach. They operate mostly on Facebook, and their group proudly boasts 427 online members. They made clear they are not a “neighborhood watch” group and do not condone the planning of such outings on their page. Instead their purpose is to bring community members together to help those in need.
On this page, they run a clothing closet, organize nursing home visits, and collect and distribute toiletries.
The other group represented, known as “Preble County Neighborhood Watch” takes more extreme measures.
According to member Steve Lipscomb, “We’re not as crazy as what we’re accused of.”
Lipscomb noted, however, they do perform surveillance on “known players.” He clarified, the group only photographs these people to find out who they are – so his group can provide them with any aid they might need.
He shared one such story of the group helping those they watched. The group threw a picnic at the United Church of Christ where anyone who showed up was invited to join the meal provided. According to Lipscomb, 25 of the people they invited joined in on the festivities.
“At first we were accused of being vigilantes, but we’re not. We’re out there trying to help people,” he said.
Before the main presentations began Chief DePew noted, “What we’re trying to do tonight is spread education to the community.”
Hurd began with a presentation entitled “Drug Trends.” He shared some of his experiences as head of the Drug Intervention Team (D.I.T.). There are six members on the team: three patrolmen, a K-9 officer, detective, and the patrol sergeant.
Sergeant Hurd spoke specifically about a drug sting the team preformed on Aug. 5. They had the assistance of Eaton Chief DePew, Beeghly, Lewisburg Chief Rick McGee, a Lewisburg patrol officer, Camden Chief Matt Spurlock, and a Camden patrol officer.
The team watched four residences using three marked cars and four unmarked cars. Three arrests were made during the sting, but even more information was gathered.
Next, Marit spoke about Fourth Amendment issues. He said that for a warrant, officers need specific information, since a warrant is essentially removing someone’s constitutional rights. The information typically has to be something law enforcement has experienced firsthand, but it can be informant information on special occasions.
To get a warrant there has to be probable cause. There are two different types of information which can be used: cumulative and immediate. Cumulative typically comes from an ongoing investigation, but immediate evidence is when something groundbreaking is discovered.
There is a difference between daytime and nighttime warrants – according to Marit, there has to be a reason it’s been requested during nighttime, due to the risk that poses to the officers’ lives. “Busting” a meth lab is an example of a scenario in which a nighttime warrant would be required.
Useful information to report to the police, according to officials includes license plate numbers, days and times of consistent high traffic, information on who is coming and going, any odd chemical odors (such as ammonia) and found paraphernalia.
As for paraphernalia, if lab trash or other related items is found, it is necessary to call the police. “Do not try and collect these items yourself,” Marit said.
Marit urged the public to stay vigilant, but to not seek trouble. “You lose credibility if you seek out information – leave that to the police,” he said, and reminded those in attendance to remember — there is a lot going on behind the scenes the public doesn’t see.
Beeghly led a presentation entitled “How to report to the police.”
Everyone knows to call 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency, but in case of a non-life threatening experience call 937-456-5531 in Eaton. Examples of non-life threatening reasons to call the police include past burglaries, property damage, and loitering.
“Remember to call when you first notice the anomaly, not later – the information is needed in the heat of the moment,” officials said.
Report the type of crime, the location, time, people involved, injuries sustained, and any weapons on the scene. Report the gender of the suspect, race, age, height, weight, eye color, hair tattoos, facial hair, clothing type, and any missing teeth. Report any vehicle information you might know, including, the make, model, year, color, license plate, unique features, damage, direction, occupants, and weapons. Basically, report anything that stands out as important to know, according to Beeghly.
When reporting drug activity, report vehicles, patterns, and persons involved.
In conclusion, the public is encouraged to get as much information as possible before reporting to the police.
DePew finished with a “call to action.” He shared that the Neighbors Against Crime program used to operate as a neighborhood watch, with many different groups patrolling the Eaton neighborhoods. This program tapered out over the years, but he hopes to get more people involved.
He urged people to take up leadership positions in these groups and to work as liaisons with the police.