The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 22, 2014

Keeping tabs on community | Somerset County residents form crime watch

JOHNSTOWN — A dozen area residents have had enough.

Spurred on by Vonda Probst of Friedens, who lost her son Jared when he overdosed on heroin, the residents have formed the Somerset County Crime Watch.

“Heroin is a cancer that we need to remove from our community,” Probst told Tribune-Democrat reporter David Hurst. “I made a pledge that I’d do whatever I could to make it happen.”

Probst would sit at her son’s grave site for hours, searching for answers. Her emotions, she said, would seesaw between helplessness and anger.

“Police do a great job here, and support groups are important, too,” Probst said. “But all of us need to be a part of it as well. We have to be aware of what’s going on in our neighborhoods and report what we see.”

The group is serving the police as extra eyes and ears in the community. Members especially are focused on suspicious activity around apartments and rental properties. They also zero in on buildings that receive an inordinate number of visitors.

Watch groups are invaluable community resources. Along with aiding the police, they also make residents, especially senior citizens, feel more secure.

Crime watchers also can be an asset for real estate agents trying to sell properties in certain neighborhoods. Potential home buyers may be swayed into purchasing a particular home because a crime watch group maintains an active presence.

And just the idea of knowing that someone might be watching them could make a lot of criminals uneasy. They usually don’t relish the idea that someone might be jotting down their physical description or the license plate number of their vehicle.

Somerset police Chief Randy Cox has thrown his support behind the fledgling group.

“It adds to the safety factor,” the law enforcement officer said.

Probst envisions a day when every community nationwide has a watch group.

“We’ve got to do it for the kids in our area,” she said. “If we can even help some of them – get them away from dealers and drugs – it would be huge.”

We would encourage anyone who is tired of criminals and the criminal activity within their neighborhood to attend one of the Somerset County group’s meetings. We are certain the group will

welcome any potential new members with open arms.

You, too, can pledge to do whatever it takes to take back your community by helping to rid it of the seedy side of society.

How to help

The Somerset County Crime Watch meets at 7 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month at the Church of the Nazarene, 382 W. Union St., Somerset.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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