Changes in neighborhood watch program to be outlined at upcoming public meeting

Changes to the city’s neighborhood crime watch program will be unveiled at a town hall meeting slated for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 11, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth announced at a Thursday morning crime advisory committee meeting.

Hollingsworth said the watch program provides “vital links” between city government and the neighborhoods it serves. She said the program is a key element of “networking” that aids citizens as well as city departments.

The mayor’s announcement followed a suggestion by Rev. Jesse Turner that the committee consider having a group of representatives visit property owners and residents of areas in which criminal activity is occurring or has recently taken place. Turner said neighborhood watch groups should then be formulated if not already functioning.

Committee chairwoman Jean Painton related security problems with one of her rent houses, saying she had replaced shattered windows in the structure last week only to have them broken again. She mentioned putting bars on the windows of the vacant house, but Archie Sanders told her that residences with barred windows can’t be insured.

The police department is working with citizens in “taking back the city one area at a time,” Deputy Chief Danna “Susie” Powell said. A current focus centers on an area from Olive to Cherry streets between West 23rd and 28th avenues.

The committee also discussed a problem with old furniture and other items sometimes being left at curbsides by renters when they’re departing a property. Mitzi Ruth said that while most residents believe Waste Management will pick up and dispose of such items, there are rules involved concerning advance notification for the Waste Management services, including some items’ ineligibility for pickup. Ruth said the public doesn’t know to call and most citizens are unaware of Waste Management’s policies.

Karen Palmer of CASA told the committee of her agency’s role in aiding victims of spousal abuse. In addition to providing shelter, CASA helps in providing individual and family counseling in an effort to prevent domestic violence.