WINFIELD | Crime Watch volunteers are needed as the town forms a unit to combat criminal activity in subdivisions and rural areas.
The idea of a Crime Watch program grew out of vandalism and armed robberies that occurred in various neighborhoods over the last year, said Don Samburg, town councilman and Winfield Crime Watch organizer.
A number of the incidents involved vandalism by roaming groups of youths in the early morning hours.
The Town Council’s passage of a curfew has helped curb much of that, Samburg said during a recent meeting at Town Hall attended by residents interested in becoming part of the program, a partnership with the council and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.
“The response to the curfew has been amazing. We haven’t had any arrests (of youths out past curfew),” he said. “It helps that there is a $2,500 (fine for parents) per occurrence.”
Council members met with Munster and Highland police departments about those communities’ long-established Crime Watch programs, and are using that information to formulate Winfield’s plan, Samburg said
County sheriff's police Sgt. Carl Porter has been involved in setting up the Winfield program from the beginning and presented information to residents.
“The more eyes on the streets the better the program,” Porter said. “There are three links in this chain — us (the sheriff’s department), the town and you. If we don’t work together, it won’t work.”
Samburg stressed that the Crime Watch program is nonconfrontational.
“We want volunteers to report suspicious activity to the sheriff’s department, not confront anyone,” he said.
Each subdivision and rural area will have a “block captain” who will help recruit volunteers to be the eyes of the neighborhood. These individuals also will facilitate meetings and communicate with residents. Background checks will be conducted and specialized training will be provided.
Those who volunteer to be part of the Crime Watch program also will receive instruction about what information is needed to report to the police, Samburg said. That includes race, gender, type of clothing worn, specific information about any vehicle involved and what direction the person or persons went, he said.
“The more information, the more details the better,” he said.
Some subdivisions have security personnel who also will be part of the program, Samburg said.
Crime Watch signs are being posted at the main entrances to Winfield and in the subdivisions “to let people know we have this program and that all suspicious persons will be reported to the police,” he said. These have been provided by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.
A free text alert program also is being set up to provide residents with information about suspicious activities and other municipal concerns such as road closings.
“Don’t think you’re bothering us,” Porter said. “We can’t be everywhere at all times. You have a great community. You want to keep it that way.”
For more information, log on to the Winfield town website at http://www.winfieldgov.com/.