A sign outside of West Central Village warns would-be criminals that residents participate in a Neighborhood Watch program with the Brazil City Police Department.
Brazil City Police Chief Mark Loudermilk wants to help victims of crime seeking to prevent such incidents in their neighborhoods.
"Think about every street, alley, house, store and parking lot in this city that needs to be patrolled 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. We can't be everywhere all the time," he told The Brazil Times Wednesday. "We need the eyes and ears of the public to be on the lookout for hot spots of drug activity and crime in their neighborhoods."
Since police officers cannot be on every corner every hour of the day, citizen involvement is an essential part of fighting crime. That is where community Neighborhood Watch programs become a valuable law enforcement tool.
In existence for more than 30 years across America, Neighborhood Watch programs can be highly successful in helping law enforcement pinpoint neighborhoods that need extra attention. No one knows a neighborhood better than the people living there and, through cooperation with each other and the police, these people can help fight crime the most effective way: before it even begins.
"Normal citizens see more of what's going on in their neighborhoods than uniformed officers patrolling in marked police cars," Loudermilk said. It is a major reason law enforcement agencies work with watch programs. "They can keep an eye on homes and vehicles while educating their neighbors about safety procedures to stop crime from happening."
Watch programs are groups of volunteers organized with assistance from local law enforcement to patrol or watch a specific area in an effort to deter would-be criminal activity.
With 12 academy certified officers on the Brazil City Police force and 10,000 people at any given time within the Brazil city limits, the department is "spread pretty thin" most of the time. The ratio hasn't changed in almost 100 years, according to recent research for the City of Brazil's Web site by Patrolman Clint McQueen into officer retirees since the Brazil City Police Department was founded in the early 1900s.
"As far back as we can find in the archives, the number of officers and city population have not changed since the turn-of-the-century when Brazil went from having a town marshal to developing a police force," Loudermilk said. "What has dramatically changed in that time is the type of crime. We still have the same problems there were 50 years ago, but now add to that today's technology crimes, drug abuse and drug related crimes. When you really think about it, it's overwhelming."
Loudermilk appreciates the six-member volunteer reserve who work with city patrolmen, but the police chief said their involvement in actual police investigations and duties is limited because of lack of training.
"A reserve officer is just not qualified to do some police work," Loudermilk said. "Every citizen deserves to have an academy trained and certified officer to respond to their calls. I would love to have a qualified officer on every street, but its not going to happen."
Willing to talk with any group interested in organizing a Neighborhood Watch in their area, Police Chief Loudermilk stressed that some individuals might not be happy about such a program taking root in the community.
"It would be great to have one of these in every neighborhood because it would allow the police to perform their duties more efficiently," he said. "But no one should put themselves in danger to be a part of a watch program. We don't need another victim."