The City of Portsmouth took steps towards uniting towards a safer community Sunday afternoon when members of the Mound Park Neighborhood Watch met with City officials as well as members of the Portsmouth Police Department (PPD).
PPD Chief Rob Ware spoke to the group about the right and wrong ways to conduct a neighborhood watch, urging citizens to be “professional witnesses.”
Ware also explained that the City could hold trainings to help people know the proper way to report crime.
He explained the individuals should avoid detaining individuals seen allegedly committing a crime. Rather, he encouraged individuals to call the police when they see a crime being committed or when they see suspicious activities.
“Remember, suspicion is subjective,” Ware stated.
He explained that neighborhood watch members should be able to explain why what they saw was suspicious (for example, if they saw a person on their neighbor’s porch, knowing the neighborhood is out of home). Witnesses should also be aware of what the suspect was wearing including the type of shoes. They should also know how to pay attention to physical details that help identify the suspect such as tattoos, height, approximate age and other identifiers that are specific enough to help officers pick the suspect in a crowd of other people.
Though Ware explained that according to Ohio law, individuals have rights to protect themselves and their property against individuals that have entered their homes. Ware further explained that nothing can be done about a person entering a driveway or porch unless there are no trespassing signs posted or the property owners has notified the person they are not welcomed on the property and have notified law enforcement of that notice. If that notice is disregarded, charges can be filed.
Though several people at the meeting were concerned with when they can detain a person that is committing a crime, Ware again stressed against this type of activity. He stated that there are specific instances in the law that allow a person to detain another individual until police arrive; however, these situations are limited. Furthermore, Ware explained that people have gotten shot and stabbed trying to detain a criminal. Thus, Ware explained it is best not to try to stop a crime happening. Instead, neighborhood watch members were encouraged to know how to help police identify the suspect.
Karen Hill, spokesperson for the Mound Park Neighborhood Watch program, explained that the group started in early October when she and her neighbors were sitting outside talking about crime taking place near their homes. At that point, they decided it was time for them to take action to clean up their community.
Hill explained that she grew up in the community and has lived in her home since the 1990s. On Oct. 2, someone tried to break into her home. Within a few days, someone successfully broke into a neighbor’s house. And, within just a few more days, members of this group witnessed a person trying to break into an empty house also in the neighborhood. Thus, this group of neighbors decided it was time to action against crime near their homes.
Though the neighborhood watch program focuses on the Mound Park area, Hill says the group is hoping to inspire others. Since starting the neighborhood watch, Hill says she has connected with a neighborhood watch group in the Notre Dame High School Area. She has also connected with community members from other parts of the City who are interested in learning how to start their own neighborhood watch group, information which was provided at Sunday’s meeting.
Hill further clarified that when the group sees a crime happening, they do not try to stop the crime themselves. Rather, they notify police that a crime is ongoing. Several members of the group have security cameras and are also willing to release footage to assist police officers in catching criminals and cleaning up the streets of Portsmouth.
The Mound Park Area Neighborhood Watch will have additional meetings and trainings to help ensure watch members are prepared for when crime strikes near their homes. Additional information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.