Should you start a neighborhood watch?
by DEB AIKEY
You notice someone lurking on your neighbors' property when they are on vacation or you are aware that the local abandoned house is being used as an impromptu juvenile hangout. What should you do? The first call of action would be to contact local law enforcement to handle the situation. A second response could be to talk with the members of your community to form a neighborhood watch.
According to the Crime Prevention Council, neighborhood watches can be a foundation for community crime prevention.
Captain Richard Fiorilla of the West Milford Police Department concurs that neighborhood watches, whether formal or informal, are an effective way to look for anything out of the normal in the community.
"Each community has their own needs and problems and citizen watch groups can help foster communication between neighbors to discuss issues and problems," Fiorilla says.
While there is no specific recipe for starting a neighborhood watch, Fiorilla says it is important to foster a relationship between the neighborhood and local law enforcement. Local police can assist neighbors in developing a neighborhood watch program and give residents tips for what to do if they see something suspicious and how to handle neighborhood issues, such as problems with people breaking local ordinances. The West Milford Police Department has officers trained in community policing and are available to meet with residents.
"Informal neighborhood watches, like in our local lake communities, keep an eye out for happenings in their neighborhood, but don't specifically patrol the streets," says Fiorilla. "These communities can have issues with ATVs on roadways, trespassing on private property, teen vandalism and the list can go on and on. Problems are specific to each particular neighborhood. Problems in a community can be as simple as neighbors blowing their leaves too early on a Sunday morning."
He adds that when neighbors call the police on each other, it can "create an animosity." By communicating with neighbors and discussing issues together, many problems can be rectified.
While Fiorilla says that neighborhood watches are effective in bringing the community together and helping to solve community issues, he says that it is "never recommended that (a neighborhood watch) take action upon themselves, such as stopping a burglary. Always contact law enforcement. We are available 24/7 and will respond to any situation."
Fiorilla suggests that if residents are interested in starting a neighborhood watch group, they should follow a few steps. The first is to identify the problems in their community. The second is to contact their local police force. The third is to visit the website USAonwatch.org, which offers a "handbook" for setting up and organizing such a watch.
USAonwatch.org provides background information on neighborhood watches and offers five steps for organizing one.
First, recruit and organize as many neighbors as possible. The first step is talking with fellow neighbors about starting a group.
Second, contact the local law enforcement agency and schedule a meeting. Invite law enforcement to meet with your group. It is essential for the group to collaborate with law enforcement, as a neighborhood watch is a cooperative effort.
Third, discuss community concerns and develop an action plan. Discuss the concerns and issues in the neighborhood. The group should create a plan on how to work towards lessening the impact of the top three concerns of neighbors.
Fourth, create a communication plan. It is important to decide what type of communication will work for specific watch groups – meetings or social media or both.
Fifth, once a neighborhood watch is established and running, ehow.com offers suggestions for keeping it that way. According to the website, "Neighborhood Watch Programs often begin in response to crimes taking place in the community. Once the crime rate is lowered or eliminated, the neighborhood programs die out."
Ehow.com recommends holding regular meetings, discussing topics of interest at meetings, delegating tasks to everyone in the neighborhood, sending out monthly newsletters, and having a socializing time during each meeting to keep residents interested in the program and participating. The site also suggests making sure that rules and responsibilities are spelled out to all participants, officers are elected, and bylaws are created.
Editorial: City's heroin scourge needs community's full police support
Gloucester Daily Times
The community forum on a “growing opioid epidemic” held at Cruiseport Gloucester last night could not have come at a better time.
With Gloucester Police reports regarding some type of heroin or other opiate-related arrests on a nearly daily basis — and with a downright chilling case last weekend centered on the arrest of a woman tied to the 2011 heroin overdose death of her finance — it's clear that the city is once again in the throes of a heroin or opioid scourge, if it ever really suppressed it in the first place.
And while groups such as the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative, with its “Learn to Cope” program and other efforts, is clearly making strides, it's also clear that too many people in Gloucester and in other communities are continuing to fall through the cracks — perhaps as many as in the first two months of 2011, when three confirmed heroin deaths sparked stepped-up policing efforts and the first of three August vigils held to remember the victims and recognize the toll that all drugs continue to take on our community.
By all counts, Gloucester police are making gains in cutting into the city's street supplies.
That's apparent whenever a scanner call notes that police, firefighters or rescue crews are administering NARCAN, which reverses the effects of an excessive heroin dose, at a response scene. It shows up at times like the night of Nov. 1, when officers took a man they called a known drug user and alleged dealer off the city's streets after a surveillance effort paid off near the McDonald's and 7-Eleven store on Maplewood Avenue. And it was apparent last Friday, when officers entering a house on Cleveland Street not only found three alleged users injecting heroin with two little kids present, but recovered a quantity of Suboxone, a compound opioid, neatly packaged for sale and distribution.
Yet policing efforts also need greater cooperation through the court system and its probation services. And perhaps more importantly, they need increasing cooperation through the kind of neighborhood watch programs that have been of discussion through police and along this fall's campaign trail leading to last week's city elections.
Look, the advancements of health and human service programs certainly play an important role, and the fact that other communities such as Beverly and Danvers are partnering with the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative shows that Gloucester coalition – which draws from the city's Health Department, police, Lahey Health through Addison Gilbert Hospital, and other community interests — is on the right track. That partnership also incorporates police efforts among those communities as well
But a first step needs to be steering more of the people who need these programs to them, and forcing them there through policing and courts when necessary. That means stepped-up drug policing on the streets — and more and more police support from the community at large.
Nobody wins if we all remain silent on this issue, and nobody wins if we turn our heads when we see or suspect a drug deal is happening — on the street, in an adjacent house or apartment, or even in a workplace or school.
If you see something, say something. This is an ongoing fight our city cannot lose.
High Desert known for body dumping
by Joe Nelson and Wes Woods
For many, the vast expanses of the Mojave Desert between Victorville and Las Vegas provide relaxing scenic views for those who drive to and from the Golden and Silver states.
But to some, the region has served a more sinister purpose — as a location to dispose of bodies or to commit murder.
The skeletal remains of four people, unearthed from two shallow graves on Wednesday in an off-roading area near Stoddard Wells Road, west of the 15 Freeway and just north of Victorville, left some pondering that darker side of the Mojave.
“If there were to be a cross everywhere someone dumped a body, the desert would look like Forest Lawn,” said Keith Bushey, a former San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy chief and Los Angeles police commissioner.
“If you want to kill somebody, you're going to take him some place that's desolate, and the California desert is just a wonderful place and it's a secluded place. In addition to all the wonderful things it has to offer, it's long been a place to dump bodies.”
Apple Valley resident Debra Andrews saw the sheriff's vehicles and news vans from the 15 Freeway on Wednesday afternoon and pulled off to see what was going on. She was shocked when she heard what investigators were unearthing.
“This is something you would hear about outside of Vegas or in the L.A. forest area. You don't find it up here very often,” said Andrews.
She said she could see the appeal of remote desert areas for killers looking for places to dump bodies.
“It seems like you can bury anything out in the desert, and it's going to take a while for someone to find it. It's unfortunate,” Andrews said. “You have so many unincorporated areas out here, you're bound to have bodies that are dumped. Until we can stop the crime, there's nothing we can really do about it.”
The remote stretch of Mojave Desert between Victorville and Las Vegas has seen its share of murder victims, either dumped or killed on site.
In one prominent crime in February 1978, Canoga Park teens Jacqueline Bradshaw, 18, and her brother Malcolm, 17, were abducted from a Barstow gas station and taken to an area of the desert east of the 15 Freeway near Hodge Road, about 10 miles south of Barstow, and beaten to death. A sheepherder found their badly decomposed bodies about a month later.
In May 2004, William Floyd Zamastil, a suspected serial killer, pleaded guilty to slaying the teens. Per a plea bargain, Zamastil was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, to run concurrent with a 25-year-to-life sentence he was already serving at a Wisconsin prison for the abduction, rape and murder of a woman there in 1978 following the Bradshaw murders.
Zamastil was a drifter believed to have trekked the Mojave Desert, from Needles to Barstow, in the 1970s, leaving a trail of victims, young men and women, in his path. Authorities suspect him of committing five additional homicides, possibly more, in California and Arizona.
The area north of Victorville is also a hotbed of motorized off-road activity. On Monday, it was an off-road motorcyclist who came across the remains and notified deputies.
“It's ridden quite a bit by four- and two wheelers,” said Chris Hayes, a parts associate for Victorville Motorcycle Center. “It's a real rocky area, a lot of heavy brush. It's pretty popular. It's just a legal riding area for all off-roaders.”
Hayes said that for a person to bury human remains “somebody's awful brave.”
Shaun Merenda, the general manager of the motorcycle parts and repairs shop Action Motorsports in Hesperia, said that portion of the desert is “one of the few areas still open to riding,”
“It's nice and open. We don't have any other place to go,” he said.
Mickey Quillman, the chief of resources for the Barstow office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said the area was a “patchwork” of private and BLM land with designated routes in the area for riders.
“West of the 15, north of Stoddard there's a lot of private land,” Quillman said. “And some BLM land. A lot of people like to shoot shotguns, which is legal on the BLM land, but you can't do it if it's privatized.”
Ohio delays inmate's execution over organ issue
Ohio's governor delayed the execution of a condemned child killer to consider the inmate's unprecedented organ donation request, acknowledging that it's "uncharted territory" but expressing hope that the man might help save a life before losing his own.
Ronald Phillips, 40, was scheduled to be put to death Thursday with a lethal injection of a two-drug combination not yet tried in the U.S., but Gov. John Kasich issued a stay of execution Wednesday. The execution date has been reset for July 2.
"I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen," Kasich said in a statement. He said he wanted to allow time for medical experts to study whether Phillips could donate non-vital organs, such as a kidney, before being executed.
Phillips, who was sentenced for raping and killing a 3-year-old girl in Akron in 1993, asked this week to donate a kidney to his mother and his heart to his sister. His attorney said it was an attempt to do good, not a delay tactic.
Ohio's prison medical policy accommodates organ donations, but prison officials rejected the request, saying it came too late to work out logistics and security concerns.
Kasich said Phillips' crime was heinous but his willingness to donate organs and tissue could save another life and the state should try to accommodate that.
Some 3,500 people in Ohio and more than 120,000 nationally are awaiting organ donations, said Marilyn Pongonis, a spokeswoman for the Lifeline of Ohio organ donation program.
If Phillips is a viable donor for his mother, who has kidney disease and is on dialysis, or for others awaiting live transplants of non-vital organs, the stay would allow time for those procedures to be performed, Kasich said.
Phillips' sister suffers from a heart ailment and he also wants to donate his heart to her.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said a Delaware death row inmate was permitted in 1995 to donate a kidney to his mother while in prison, though he was not facing imminent execution like Phillips.
"This step by the governor puts it into a more normal discussion of (how) an inmate, without any security problems, can help save another person and is that the right thing to do," he said. "With 24 hours to go before an operation had to be carried out, it definitely gets in the way of that process."
Vital organ donations raise larger ethical issues and have not been allowed during U.S. executions but have occurred in China, Deiter said.
Dieter, whose group opposes the death penalty, added: "If the whole idea is to save a life, there's one life to be saved simply by not executing the person at all."