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Eagle Butte hosts Neighborhood Watch Program to build community and city/citizen partnerships

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by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

A new Neighborhood Watch Program, sponsored by the City of Eagle Butte, will be kicking off in October, encouraging neighbors to look out for each other.

Neighborhood Watch Programs vary across the country in how they work with authorities. For Eagle Butte, the program will work in conjunction with the city and the city police to watch out for suspicious activity, not just on their own property, but that of their neighbors’ property, as well.

City organizers for the program are Norman Schuler, Eagle Butte police chief, and Stephanie Davidson, Eagle Butte mayor.

“Neighborhood Watch groups empower people to prevent crime, forge bonds between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and build a foundation for broader community improvement. The fact is, concerned neighbors who watch out for and care about each other are the front line defenses against crime,” said Stephanie Davidson, mayor of Eagle Butte.

The rash of break-ins over the summer has been a regular part of the Eagle Butte Police Department’s reports to the City Council. According to Schuler, both city and CRST Tribal Police have been kept busy addressing incidents.

“In the last couple of years, it has become evident that our homes are being watched by the vandals/burglars that lay in-waiting for us to leave our homes for any period of time. The present and past string of break-ins has people wondering what’s coming next? It has come to my attention and many others that people’s homes are being broke into while they were away for the weekend or just a routine trip out of town. I, personally, am very hesitant to leave our home for any amount of time for fear of what potentially could happen while we are gone. The criminals are carrying large items out of homes, large screen TVs and anything else of value. Somebody has to be witness to these crimes. That is what a Neighborhood Watch does. It’s people looking out for their neighbors; it’s people taking a vested interest in their community,” said Davidson.

The program officially begins with the City hosting a volunteer training by Jim Larsen, a Sioux Falls police officer who specializes in crime prevention, including work with the Sioux Falls’ Neighborhood Watch Program. The program will be October 18, 2012, at the Landmark Hall in Eagle Butte. There is no cost to attend or volunteer.

“Officer James Larson, Sioux Falls Crime Prevention officer, will be conducting the first training session on what is involved in a Neighborhood Watch. The interested crime watch volunteers will get specialized training by Officer Larson on what to do if they see suspicious activity or a crime in progress, what to tell the police dispatch center when calling in the incident, and most importantly, how to be a good witness. Watch members attend meetings; work with other members on common goals; report suspicious activity; look after residences when neighbors are away and recruit new members, and of course, use their eyes and ears to assist police officers in apprehending the criminals,” said Davidson.

Neighborhood Crime Watch groups have been around since the 1960s as a way of preventing crimes before they happen. Recently, they have been under scrutiny since the killing of Treyvon Martin, allegedly by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the case, according to news reports.

Issues of race and class can become problems with crime watch groups that are not managed by state or local authorities, unlike the program being brought to Eagle Butte. According to the National Sheriffs’ Association, proper training of volunteers mitigates concerns over vigilantism.

Bringing the community together, whatever the jurisdiction, is of the utmost importance to those organizing the Eagle Butte Neighborhood Watch Program. The program organizers are hoping that the program benefits all area people, regardless of whether they live in the city limits or not.

“A neighborhood watch can be the eye for any crime. It can be something as scary as a break in, or a building being tagged or someone’s property being vandalized. Any action that tears our community down is a crime against everyone in this community. We hope that with this Neighborhood Watch program that the community will come together as one for the safety and well being of the whole community,” said Davidson.

“We are inviting any and all interested entities to get involved; all housing programs here in Eagle Butte have been invited. The more people involved, the better this program will work for all of us.”

For more information on the upcoming training or the program, please call the Eagle Butte City office or police department.

The program is also being discussed at the Eagle Butte City Council meetings. The next meeting is a special meeting on September 26, with the next regular meeting on October 10, 2012. Both are at 6 p.m. at City Hall

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