The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

News

April 10, 2014

Somerset forming crime watch

SOMERSET — After Vonda Probst’s son, Jared, died of a heroin overdose in July, she said she often found herself sitting at his gravesite late into the evening.

The Friedens woman said she felt helpless, heartbroken and, increasingly, angry.

“Heroin is a cancer that we need to remove from our community,” she said. “And I made a pledge that I’d do whatever I could to make it happen.”

Probst and 11 other Somerset County residents have formed a Somerset crime watch group to aid in that cause, saying their growing group wants to serve as the watchful eyes and ears of communities beset by drugs.

“Police do a great job here, and support groups are important, too,” she 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.”

Suspicious activity, high-traffic apartments and license plate numbers often can become tips that lead local investigators to dealers, she said. Watch group members, armed with nothing more than a pen and notebook, can learn a lot, even from a safe distance away.

Somerset police Chief Randy Cox said the group approached his department in the fall.

He said the department welcomes their support. As with any community watch group, police stress that participants must operate under “certain guidelines to protect their safety.

“We tell them, ‘Let us know where you’re going to be – when and where,’ ” he said. “It adds to the safety factor. And it allows us to avoid potential confusion where we might have an officer seeing what they think is a suspicious vehicle when it’s actually one of theirs.”

Probst said her group is “still young” but she dreams of a day when watch group members have a presence in communities across the county.

“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.”

David Hurst is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter. com/tddavidhurst.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Poll

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.

     View Results
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide