Keeping watch

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Richard Byrd/Columbia Basin Herald A group of Moses Lake residents gathered Monday night for a Neighborhood Watch meeting.

MOSES LAKE — The American anthropologist Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” The small group of homeowners gathered at Jill Hotchkiss’ Moses Lake home Monday night may not have their eyes necessarily transfixed on changing the world, but the actions they are taking by organizing a Neighborhood Watch program are certainly changing each of their respective worlds in the present.

“We all just decided that we wanted to do something collectively. People are down at Montlake Park at all hours of the night and we have had a lot of break-ins. We have had someone go into one of our homes,” Hotchkiss remarked. “We just wanted to do something.”

The Beaumont Drive residents who gathered at Hotchkiss’ home all live, in terms of overall appearance, in a fairly safe neighborhood. A lot of empty lots and larger homes just a stone’s throw from the lake are the main sights of the area. That appearance can be deceiving, and an incident like the one that occurred at Montlake Park, which is just below Beaumont Drive, in mid-January illustrate the concerns and frustrations that homeowners in the area have had for years.

The circumstances of the Jan. 14 shooting are still being investigated, but what is known is that an 18-year-old man was shot several times and two males, a Moses Lake teenager and a 20-year-old Warden man, were arrested and charged in connection with the incident. The shooting might have been a random one at an arbitrary location, but Beaumont Drive residents have had concerns about their neighborhood for a while and, in fact, had already started the process for creating a Neighborhood Watch program before the shooting occurred.

“We are just working on our block and hoping the next block over will do the same, and so will the next block over and just have the process repeated all over Moses Lake,” Hotchkiss explained.

That decision has already paid off in terms of bringing neighbors together. Two successful meetings with about a dozen Beaumont Drive residents are in the books, phone numbers have been exchanged, contacts at the police department have been established and a course of action for the future has been put into place.

All of that won’t immediately put a damper on all crime. During Monday night’s meeting homeowner Rod Richeson shared a recent video, taken from a camera that is hidden in his house’s doorbell, of a suspicious male knocking on his front door in broad daylight. The police were immediately called and officers contacted the male. The Neighborhood Watch program teaches people how to look out for suspicious males like the one who knocked on Richeson’s door and how to watch out for your neighbors.

“It has been proven that crimes rates go down, because the more that the police are in that (Neighborhood Watch) neighborhood it is less likely that people will be there, because they might get caught or noticed," MLPD Police Specialist Olivia Martinez told the Columbia Basin Herald.

The MLPD has Neighborhood Watch materials on hand and will even purchase signs for neighborhoods and provide window clings. Neighborhoods interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch program are encouraged to contact Martinez at 509-764-3887 to get the process started.

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