Here is a list of the 1996 officers for Tupelo’s citywide Coalition of Neighborhood Watch:
President – Dick Johnson of the Magnolia Street Neighborhood Watch Group.
Vice President – Amy Griffin of the Lee Acres Watch Group.
Secretary/Treasurer – Moe Bristow of the Robins Street Neighborhood Watch Group.
Neighborhood Watch looks to improve membership
By Cynthia M. Jeffries
Low attendance at a Tupelo Coalition of Neighborhood Watch meeting Thursday night had members there searching for ways to improve interest in the citizen policing force.
Nine people representing five of the city’s 29 watch groups came to the meeting in which officers were elected. It took those members nearly an hour to come up with candidates who would accept one of the three leadership positions in the citywide organization.
Lolly McKee told the group something had to be done to perk up interest in the organization. She suggested more city involvement may be the key.
“The first few meetings that we had, we had unlimited officers from the police department and the city here,” said McKee, whose husband, Jerry, is the outgoing president of the coalition.
The number of people there Thursday was fewer than half the 20 people from 13 different watch groups who attended the last meeting in October.
Newly elected President Dick Johnson from the Magnolia Street Neighborhood Watch Group said he thinks the problem with attendance has more to do with apathetic attitudes. Johnson also said he thinks new leadership working with the city’s liaison officer, Crime Prevention/Public Information Officer Russ Witt, could get the numbers to go up.
“In order to make (the coalition) viable again, the city is going to have to step back in,” Johnson said.
Witt said he is currently working on ways to get more watch groups started across the city.
Johnson said he does not think the steadily declining attendance has anything to do with an incident that occurred last summer in which former crime prevention officer Nancy Frideres resigned after making allegations of harassment within the police department and accusing the department of diverting funds intended for the crime watch organizations to other areas.
Attendance at the quarterly meeting has steadily dwindled since then, with mostly a faithful few keeping things going.
Witt suggested a city-sponsored cookout or dinner where leaders from all of the groups that dot the city could be represented.
Johnson and the rest of those in attendance liked the idea.
“That would be a reason for people to come back and get real excited about it again,” he said.
Plans still have to be formalized, but the event will be held before the coalition’s April 11 meeting.
The Tupelo Coalition of Neighborhood Watch was formed in April 1994 for the purpose of getting all of the city’s watch groups working together instead of independently.
Neighborhood Watch is a people policing program designed to provide mutual assistance between police and residents to rid areas of crime.