Anger, fear, frustration and isolation can grip entire communities when criminals intrude, leaving everyone trying to recapture the feeling of safety.
No one knows a neighborhood better than those who live there and these people can help fight crime before it even begins.
Brazil City Police Chief Mark Loudermilk wishes there would be a Neighborhood Watch program in every Brazil neighborhood .
"We can't be everywhere all the time," he said. "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."
Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton feels the same way about the small communities and rural homes in the area.
"The Sheriff's Department has a large area to patrol and we depend on the calls from concerned citizens reporting suspicious activity," he said. "Concerned neighborhoods are an abundant resource to our county. From the rural farmlands to the small towns and various sub-divisions, each person knows when something or someone looks suspicious or out of place. These citizens who contact us when they notice a suspicious vehicle or person in their neighborhood is instrumental in helping us curtail criminal activity."
Sheriff Heaton emphasized that nothing is too small a detail to contact authorities about when reporting suspicious activity.
"I would much rather investigate a call about suspicious activity and find the person or situation is not criminal, than to not be called and find that we could have prevented a crime," he said.
Law enforcement and citizens alike want to take back the county from drug dealers and criminals, and both Heaton and Loudermilk agree that cooperation from citizens will make a difference.
"Working together we can make a difference and put criminals on notice that the citizens of Clay County are not going to tolerate their activity any more," Heaton said.
With hectic lifestyles, it's difficult for many adults to find free time to volunteer for a Neighborhood Watch program, but that doesn't mean a person can't keep an eye out for crime.
What to do:
Law enforcement agencies encourage people to report criminal or suspicious activity, but people need to be aware of how to properly report the information.
How to report an emergency: Remember to remain calm and give all details about emergency to dispatchers, such as:
- Location and time it happened
- If there are any injuries or property damage
- Physical descriptions of suspects or vehicle descriptions (including license plate number and color)
- Names of suspects, victims or witnesses, if known
If reporting a crime still in progress or there is a threat of danger, you could be asked to remain on the line. Dispatchers will relay your information to responding personnel to keep them aware of the situation. This will ensure the emergency is handled as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Be prepared to give 911 dispatchers your name and address, the location and nature of the problem, while providing the telephone number you are calling from. If using a cell phone, inform dispatchers if experiencing any connection problems because of your location. This allows them to return the call if you become disconnected be-fore help arrives.
When to call 911:
Law enforcement officials recommend citizens call 911 if they witness the following emergencies:
- A fight or any type of battery in progress
- A burglary or major theft, such as vehicle thefts, in progress
- Fires, automobile accidents and
- Injured people needing medical assistance
"The 911 system is there for emergency purposes," Sheriff Heaton said. "If it's happening, call."
Dispatchers will request all non-emergency calls to 911 to hang up and call the business line of the appropriate department to clear the line for emergency calls. Also remember that when emergency calls flood the 911 system they are rolled over to Sullivan dispatchers, who transfer the information back to Clay County.
When to call the police station or county sheriff's office:
Citizens should call the office of the law enforcement agency that covers their area for non-emergency calls. Residents living within the Brazil city limits should call the Brazil City Police Department at 446-2211, while county residents can call the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535, both departments have dispatchers available 24-hours a day to report:
- Burglary or theft thathas already happened
- Battery that is over and no medical help is needed
- Trespass or unwanted guest calls with no battery occurring
- To report suspected drug labs
- To report other non-emergency calls which require officer assistance
When to talk to the police chief, sheriff or a detective:
People need to report suspicious or unusual activity in their neighborhoods to law enforcement. The information will help authorities to pin point criminal activity that could become crucial to various investigations in the area.
Dispatchers will be able to refer these types of calls to the appropriate answering systems for each department.