Kokomo — Neighbors taking care of neighbors.
That’s how Judy Price sums up her experience with the local crime-watch program.
“We feel safer,” Price said of her Cedar Crest neighborhood. “In small ways, we think it’s made a difference. Some of crime has gone down.”
Price, a retired Chrysler worker, and her husband have lived in the area for 24 years and feel safe knowing their neighborhood has a crime watch in place.
“I think people in the neighborhood are far more aware and more vigilant now,” she said.
“We’re keeping an eye out for each other and each other’s homes.”
Traffic problems, animal complaints, mischief and occasional domestic violence calls are the main problems, she said.
“We met with [Officer] Ted Mygrant and he gives us a crime report every month,” said Price. “That’s one thing that helps is the working relationship with police.
“When I grew up and you needed help, you could ask a cop,” she continued. “They don’t get the respect they used to get.”
Officer Shawn Mayfield facilitates crime watches in a number of neighborhoods for the Kokomo Police Department. He said the watch programs also make for a nicer, cleaner neighborhood.
“It’s very important to the community,” said Mayfield. “It’s about neighbors gathering together, communicating with one another and working to prevent crime. Not only does it give us information, it gives neighbors a chance to say what they’re seeing and what kinds of problems they have.”
Mayfield said officers also glean valuable information from residents involved in the watches.
“We get a lot of information from these crime watches that we didn’t know about before. Sometimes, they work things out themselves pretty good,” he said. “We’re trying to expand it more because it is very valuable for the neighborhoods.”
Police assign officers to the neighborhoods to help with crime watches and get to know the people in their patrol area.
Crime-watch signs are posted in each of the neighborhoods to let residents — and criminals — know they’re being watched.
The signs have a community crime net phone number, 765-459-5101, visible for residents to call police and report suspicious activity.
While some crime watches are very active, others don’t have set meetings.
Certain crimes are more prevalent in certain areas, but crime in general is spread out throughout the city. Little things like improving the lighting in and around your home can make a big difference, said Mayfield.
Price said police are very helpful and often conduct crime prevention programs to help neighbors.
“They showed us what to look for when it comes to methamphetamine labs and what to look for as far as vandalism and stuff like that,” she said.
Along with the crime watch programs, Price said neighbors get involved in other prevention programs throughout the year, such as the National Night Out in August and a fun day at the park each year.
In Indian Heights, John Roberts took the neighborhood watch to a higher level by incorporating the Indian Heights Community Association.
Roberts, who has been the head of the eight-person association since 2003, believes watch programs do work as long as residents get involved.
“It does makes a difference,” he said. “It’s about the core group of the [association] board. The people themselves get busy and distracted with other things.”
With 3,400 residents and 1,245 properties, the neighborhood of winding streets with Indian-associated names is by far the largest neighborhood in Howard County.
“Our biggest concern is not so much crime, but the quality of life issues, [such as] trash removal and absentee landlords,” he said. “People driving by making loud noise and residents not getting rid of their trash are the main problems.
“This neighborhood is densely populated and everyone lives close together. Since the county does not have quality-of-life ordinances, that becomes an issue,” he added.
“We’re also big on getting junk vehicles removed.”
Since 2004, 150 “junk” vehicles have been removed from the Heights, he said.
Of all the complaints from residents to the Howard County Sheriff Department, junk cars and trashy houses top the list.
“It’s like the broken-window effect,” said Roberts. “We try to keep the little things taken care of, which in turn helps take care of the big things. Ninety percent of our problem is with 5 percent of the people. Most people out here are hard-working, honest people from every occupation of life. It’s a good community.”
• Mike Fletcher is the Kokomo Tribune crime reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8565 or email@example.com.