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June 15, 2014

Boswell residents meeting to launch crime watch program

BOSWELL — Dee Weijers was already frustrated with the increased drug and crime activity in Boswell, she said.

But when word spread that children were finding used syringes scattered around town, including one near a playground, she decided to do something about it.

Today, Weijers and her husband, Joost, are among a small but growing number of Boswell residents working to form a crime watch group in town.

Their goal: to help their small borough police department by quietly serving as watchful eyes in their neighborhoods.

“After we heard about the syringes, some of us started talking on Facebook and we realized someone has to do something,” she said. “Someone has to care.”

Borough Mayor Sue Sarver is spearheading the organization’s start-up efforts.

She said 11 residents have already joined in since their first informal meeting. Dozens more have expressed interest in recent weeks.

The borough’s police department does a fine job, but it’s easy to see the small force needs the community’s support, she said.

While the borough is advertising to fill two police positions – and council is hoping to “build up” the department – officers are currently only budgeted to patrol the streets approximately 40 hours a week, Sarver said.

“Our goal is to help provide information to the police department when we see or hear about something concerning,” she said.

Weijers noted that local residents can do that just by being observant on their own property.

“Being a part of this doesn’t mean you have to walk the street,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you have to have your name out there, either.”

Weijers already has compiled a list of phone numbers – such as the county drug hotline, Crimestoppers and others – to provide local residents with resources they can turn to, often anonymously, to help law enforcement officials or report concerns.

Sarver said the group is just getting started. They are working on plans to meet every two weeks at the borough office until another location is found, she said.

“If nothing else,” she added, “Hopefully this can help bridge the gap between our local community and the police department – open up the lines of communication a bit.”

David Hurst covers Somerset County for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @TDDavidHurst.

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