Joe Matosian, of Martinez, wants to revive the dormant Neighborhood Watch program in Rose Point subdivision off South Old Belair Road.
Tara Nickol, of Martinez, gathers information about Columbia County's Neighborhood Watch program and other issues at a Neighborhood Watch Seminar.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
"We have one in name only," Matosian said at a Neighborhood Watch Seminar held by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday at the Evans Government Complex.
But with a newfound energy and motivation from a new homeowners association president, Matosian volunteered to captain Rose Point's Neighborhood Watch and attend the seminar for information he can pass along to his neighbors.
Columbia County sheriff's Crime Prevention Officer, Deputy Kara McGahee, said that the county boasts 104 Neighborhood Watch programs, but like Matosian's, not all are active.
That's why McGahee, who oversees the county's Neighborhood Watch program, will begin holding quarterly informational seminars for Neighborhood Watch captains to keep the subdivision watches active and informed.
"We're going to have an educational component and then a question-and-answer session about every three months to make sure we are getting information to our neighborhoods that we need," McGahee said. "Hopefully we can get the message out to let everybody know that we need those active Neighborhood Watches."
The first seminar featured speakers from the sheriff's office, Georgia Forestry Commission, CSX Railroad and the county's Traffic Engineering Department and Emergency Services Division.
"You are our eyes and ears," sheriff's Lt. Sharif Chochol told the 35 captains present at the meeting. "We can't be everywhere all the time. ... We rely on you."
Columbia County Traffic Engineering Specialist Bobby Cato (right) discussed the placement of Neighborhood Watch signs like the one held by Columbia County sheriff's Deputy Kara McGahee at a recent seminar.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
Chochol and Deputy Dennis Mack explained traffic issues such as the proper use of the center turn lane and speed limit enforcement, when to call 911 and the sheriff's office house watch program for captains to pass along to their neighbors.
"Anytime you go out of town, you can call the sheriff's office, and we'll check your house while your gone," Chochol said. "It's a great way to have piece of mind while your gone."
Steve Abbott, chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry's Richmond/Columbia unit, reminded captains of the ban on outdoor burning until Oct. 1 and provided information on becoming a fire wise community.
McGahee said meetings like these will help Neighborhood Watches stay active. The next meeting date has not yet been scheduled, but McGahee hopes to cover how to prevent identity theft or crime prevention through environmental design, she said.
McGahee said Neighborhood Watches are a cooperative effort among residents and are the most effective tool in preventing crime in neighborhoods.
"Law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere all the time. It's up to you guys," McGahee told the captains. "(Crime) is not just a law enforcement problem, it's everyone's problem. It's your neighborhood. You've got to make it the best. It's your neighborhood. You've got to remember that." Anyone interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch program or to receive a Neighborhood Watch sign, call McGahee at 541-3905.
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