Residents Calling for Stronger, Bigger Neighborhood Watch

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COLUMBIA - In many towns and cities across America, you see the signs. The menacing face of a "thug" with a red line through it promoting that the residents of the certain community have their eyes on you.

In mid-Missouri, it's no different. In the Vanderveen subdivision in northern Columbia, signs on every corner remind passersby that their neighborhood is under constant surveillance. The Vanderveen neighborhood, like all those that participate in the program, receive one free Neighborhood Watch sign. But this area has ponied up $40 each for additional signs. With the increased number of signs, this also means that at least half of the residents who live on a block where a sign resides participate actively in the Neighborhood Watch program.

Columbia Neighborhood Watch Board President Susan Clark said Columbia has approximately 3,000 to 4,000 members in its program, spread out between 400 to 500 groups. "I would think for a town that's about 100,000 people we should have a far larger membership base than we have," said Clark.

The Neighborhood Watch program in Columbia has been around since the 1970's and is continuing to evolve. Clark added that the program has a very strong working relationship with the Columbia Police Department and has gone through training with the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

In Auxvasse, the Neighborhood Watch program is making a return. Thanks to budget concerns at the part-time Auxvasse Police Department and a recent uptick in crime, the town of about 980 people is looking into bringing back the Neighborhood Watch. The city used to have the program, but abandoned it after residents became disinterested.

Auxvasse Police Chief Kevin Suedmeyer said burglaries have been occurring more frequently in Auxvasse and residents are getting fed up. "We want to continue to be a proactive police force, not a reactive one," said Suedmeyer. He added that he is hesitant to attribute the crime problems to any one issue, but is hoping residents come together to fight the problem.

For more information on how you can join the Auxvasse Neighborhood Watch, contact city hall at 573-386-2227.