People Organize Neighborhood Watch in Winooski

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 01/05 2014 07:08PM

Updated 01/05 2014 07:40PM

WINOOSKI, Vt.- After a rash of burglaries in Winooski during the past few months people living in the area are fed up.
So they've joined together to do something about it.
One woman spearheaded the effort to re-create a 'Neighborhood Watch’ group, 15 years after the last one failed.

“Both neighbors on either side of me were broken into,” said P.J. Benoit, the coordinator of the Winooski Neighborhood Watch.

For the last decade Benoit has called Winooski home.
She says the string of break-ins over the last six months sparked her into action.
“We want people to get involved. Basically I can't say it any better than that,” said Benoit.
So she's going door to door, meeting her neighbors, handing out fliers, and Beniot says recruiting people to take part in restoring their neighborhood.
The goal is to make sure the community of Winooski is a safe place to live.
“It has to change, because it's so disheartening” said Benoit.
Pamela Allen says she's anxious to kick off a neighborhood watch on her street.
She says her house was broken into just a week after she decided to get involved.
“It was pretty scary, so after that I was definitely very motivated to create a Neighborhood Watch,” said Allen.
People who are a part of the Neighborhood Watch are encouraged to report suspicious activity to police.
Winooski Chief of Police Steve McQueen says it's something that's been tried over and over again and always fizzled out. But he thinks this time will be different.
“We are, and they are utilizing social media as well. The days of a phone tree are gone. We use email Facebook. We are looking at Nixel and Twitter, which are other ways of getting information out,” said McQueen.
That flow of information is key.
Chief McQueen says the public has already helped police solve a few crimes.
“We arrested someone who we suspect of committing the vast majority of the burglaries in Winooski over the last few months. So that's big and the initial call was just a suspicious person call,” said Chief McQueen.
Allen says that's why the neighborhood watch is so important.
“We have to; I have to meet my neighbors take care of each other and that kind of thing. And you know once I started handing out fliers I realized that there are some fantastic people here, they are great, honest, hardworking people, and they are people worth knowing,” said Allen.

Chief McQueen says a big portion of a Neighborhood Watch is getting information out to people to make sure they know when they should call police, what information is helpful, and what to do if you are the victim.
“If you suspect your house has been broken into call the police, do not go in, we will go in, we will secure it which also allows us to find any physical evidence that might help us identify who did it,” said Chief McQueen.

If you'd like more information on the Neighborhood Watch there is a kickoff meeting Monday night at St. Francis Xavier Church on St. Peter Street. It begins at 6:30 and is open to everyone.

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