MOUNT VERNON — Neighborhood Watch programs may be making a comeback in Knox County. Sheriff David Barber has been working with local groups to either revitalize once-active groups or to start new ones in different parts of the county.
Watch programs took a hit a couple years ago when Barber was forced to make budget cuts in his department in order to keep deputies on the road and maintain the staff at the jail. One of the casualties was the community liaison officer, who maintained regular contact with the neighborhood groups, keeping them informed about arrests or problems in the area, generally keeping the groups linked in to the sheriff’s office so they don’t feel like they’re operating in a vacuum. Deputy Dan Selby was the liaison officer. He’s still with the department, but other duties fill his time.
Apple Valley had a large and active Neighborhood Watch. Citizens patrolled in the 16 different subdivisions and met regularly with the liaison officer. But there is no official watch today.
Cheri Bagent, who was the Citizen Patrol scheduler for the group, said it was a victim of the budget cuts in the sheriff’s office. With no feedback from the communications officer about what kinds of reports were being received or the kinds of things to watch out for, participation waned.
“It’s hard to keep people motivated when they never see someone from the sheriff’s office,” Bagent said.
The story was about the same in Martinsburg. Jim St. Clair said when he was mayor, there was an active watch program, but since leaving that post his contact lessened and he’s not sure of the current status. However, he also said the lack of feedback from the sheriff’s office caused participation to decline.