Watchful eyes of citizensMike Almond had four good reasons to join Superior’s new Citizen Watch program, his daughters.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Mike Almond had four good reasons to join Superior’s new Citizen Watch program, his daughters.
“For me, first and foremost, it’s my kids,” he said. “The more deterrent I have to keep drugs away from them, the better.”
He learned about the program when he approached Nora Fie, children’s librarian at the Superior Public Library, about setting up a safety awareness class for children. As they worked on the class, tentatively scheduled for April, Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste asked Almond to think about joining the Citizen Watch.
“I’ll do my share,” said Almond, who lives on Oakes Avenue. “I’m just trying to do my part.”
When Kathleen “Kitty” Otto learned the new Citizen Watch program was starting, she was quick to join along with her sisters Dawn Priem and Tammy O’Brien. All three women are former members of the Superior Police Auxiliary.
“The Neighborhood Watch is a good thing,” said Otto, who lives on Weeks Avenue. “It does, it keeps the crime down.”
Currently their group boasts nine members, the youngest of whom is 53.
“Everybody wanted to join, nobody wanted to be captain,” Otto said, so she stepped up for the role. Their Citizen Watch members keep an eye out as they walk their dogs, drive through the area or look out the window.
“We can get to know our neighbors,” Priem said. “Not only us watching out for them, but them watching out for us … people care.” And they all want their neighborhood to be nice, Otto said.
A table in the lobby of Elmwood Apartments has become a desk station for members of the watch, with printouts of laws, identification tips and more available.
Almond takes walks through the neighborhood with his cockapoo, Teddy. His next door neighbor drives by area businesses late at night to check on them. Becoming part of the Citizen Watch has helped Almond put names to the faces of neighbors he used to just wave and say “Hi” to.
One challenge still lies ahead, and it will include coffee. Almond and Beste are planning a meet and greet with some of his neighbors, the residents of Golden Apartments.
“I’m African American; I’m a big guy,” Almond said, and he wanted to let the older ladies at the apartments know that they shouldn’t call the cops if they see him wandering through their parking lot in the early morning hours.
“I’m here to help,” he said.
There are 33 active members of the Citizen Watch, according to Beste, covering all areas of Superior. And they are actively recruiting. As Almond and Otto put it: “The more, the merrier.”
The groups are also seeking monetary donations to purchase neighborhood watch street signs, window clings, magnetic bumper stickers and vests. Those outward signs can pay big dividends. People don’t break the law in front of a police officer because they see the cop car or uniform, Beste said.
“We know the police can’t be everywhere,” Priem said. But signs of an active Citizen Watch can also be a “huge deterrent” to crime, according to Beste. Their presence can protect both residents and businesses.
Members of Superior’s Citizen Watch serve as extra eyes and ears for the police department. They keep an eye out for anything different, dangerous or out of the ordinary. If something doesn’t look right, they call the police.
Almond acts as the leader and focal point for his group. Members call him with information and he passes it on to police. Otto said most members in her group tend to call the cops themselves.
Citizen Watch members don’t have to take regular patrol shifts or commit to dozens of hours.
“From what Bonnie was explaining, hey, a walk around the block helps,” Almond said. “Every little bit helps.”
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Citizen Watch or donating funds for the program should call Beste at 715-395-7401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.