East Urbana neighborhood group forms crime watch in shooting's wake

East Urbana neighborhood group forms crime watch in shooting's wake

URBANA — The Historic East Urbana Neighborhood Association mimicked several other city neighborhoods Thursday by getting together to begin a neighborhood watch in light of recent violence and burglaries.

The meeting was led by Urbana police Officer Preston James, the department's neighborhood-watch coordinator, and Amy Anderson, an animal-control officer and eventual neighborhood-watch coordinator when James leaves the role.

James said the demand for setting up neighborhood watches increased in 2016, with Anderson adding that there are three more neighborhood watch set-up meetings slated for January so far. Once the group becomes a neighborhood watch, it'll add to the 22 watches that James said are already in the city.

According to Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly, there have been 26 substantive reports of shots fired in the city from the beginning of the year up to Nov. 29. Twelve of those resulted in injuries, and four resulted in death, he said.

The neighborhood group last met Nov. 11 to discuss a nearby Nov. 1 shooting, and that's when its members got the idea to form a neighborhood watch. Once they have all of their information gathered and presented to the police, James said they can become a neighborhood watch right away.

"Your job is not to become vigilantes," Anderson said about the role of a neighborhood watch. "They can get just as hurt as anyone else. Let us keep your area safe for you. If you see something, say something — don't necessarily do something, because it could get you very hurt very quick."

James added, "Don't assume the role of police, even if you have concealed carry."

Instead, neighborhood-watch members are tasked with keeping an eye on surrounding activity and helping each other be informed about alarms, motion lights, cutting down bushes and other precautionary measures to keep burglars away.

"When you're calling in suspicious activity, do it from a protected distance, and give us as much information as you can," James said, referring to clothing, body and car details. "Don't call a person suspicious based on how they look but instead based on how they act."

In addition, James and Anderson said neighborhood watches can focus on bonding the community together with social and service activities.

The neighborhood group decided to meet Jan. 19 at the Baha'i Center to hash out the beginnings of its neighborhood watch.


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stingray1970 wrote on December 16, 2016 at 10:12 am
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Was diversity taken into consideration when the Historic East Urbana Neighborhood Association established this neighborhood watch?