LANGELOTH, Pa. - Approximately 40 residents met Sunday to discuss and implement plans for a community crime watch, along with several Smith Township Police officers and officials.
The meeting was conducted by Smith Township Supervisor Anthony Gianfrancesco and Township Police Chief Bernie LaRue.
"We have got to take our town back," said Gianfrancesco. "This is our town. We don't want this around here, we've got little ones."
Smith Township Police Chief Bernie LaRue, left, and Supervisor Anthony Gianfrancesco, right, speak to approximately 40 residents during a meeting of the Langeloth community crime watch Sunday. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
LaRue stressed the main focus of the group would be neighbors looking out for neighbors and encouraging a return to a sense of community and neighbourliness.
"It's not going to happen overnight, but that's where you want to go," said LaRue. "You don't just have to rely on surveillance systems and alarms."
LaRue cautioned residents against approaching or confronting anyone who made them feel uncomfortable and stressed residents should always call 9-1-1 if they saw suspicious activity or a crime in progress.
"I cannot emphasize that enough: That is what it is for," he said.
He added residents were welcomed and encouraged to report suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1, and if they did not want an officer to come to their door, they could request an officer call them instead. In such a case, the resident would give the dispatcher their contact information and the officer would be asked to call into dispatch to get that information.
"Your name and number will not go out over the radio," said LaRue.
He also discussed the collection of information about suspicious people and vehicles, telling those in attendance that one of the most important things to note is the date and time the incident occurred. If possible, residents are asked to get the license plate numbers of suspicious cars.
LaRue also discussed using social media to share information about the crime watch and cautioned against it, noting those committing burglaries can access the information just as easily as those involved in the crime watch. He added an alert to pay attention to a particular area or vehicle could lead criminals to change their habits, making them more difficult to apprehend. He added Langeloth is small and residential enough neighbors should be able to directly share information easily.
He also cautioned against using people's names, noting, while it was acceptable to give the names of people seen engaged in what might be suspicious activity to the police or crime watch captains, residents should not widely disseminate that information.
"We don't want to accuse anyone of anything until (police) action is taken," said LaRue. "We want to protect you, your homes and your property, but we have to remember that everyone has rights and we have to be careful not to cross that line."
He noted, recently, several officers were called to a residence because neighbors saw the garage door was open and knew the owners were on vacation. The officers found a male there and held him before finding he was house-sitting at the owners' request.
LaRue informed residents, if they informed the police department they would be on vacation, officers would regularly check on their homes. Residents also discussed holding and stopping newspapers and mail.
The group discussed a recent burglary in the community, noting it occurred in the early hours of the morning and small items, such as checks and jewelry, were taken. The burglar hasn't been apprehended yet. LaRue noted arrests were made in three recent burglary cases in the area, however.
Gianfrancesco said he attended a recent crime watch meeting in Avella, where residents also are seeing a large number of thefts. The group also briefly discussed crime watch efforts in Jefferson Township, which is situated between Langeloth and Avella.
The group also discussed organizing a clean-up and setting up a meeting for area landlords to share information on leases and to meet with police officers. Gianfrancesco said he purchased 10 crime watch signs from Cassidy Signs and those attending agreed they should be placed at each end of the community and at major intersections. The group also briefly discussed obtaining 501(c)3 nonprofit status in order to raise funds, apply for grants and receive donations to fund such things.
Gianfrancesco said the supervisors would be discussing incorporating a curfew.
The group agreed to divide Langeloth into five separate areas, with two crime watch captains in each area collecting information from and disseminating it to residents and township officials. The areas agreed on were east, center, west, Main Street and Miner's Hill and watch captains were assigned.
The group also discussed distributing an information form which residents could use to collect information on suspicious people, vehicles and activities. These forms will be available at the post office and at Rotellini's Market. Those attending also agreed to meet once a month to share information, discuss problems and get updates from township officials and police.
The next meeting will be held at 2 p.m. April 29 at the Langeloth Community Center.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)