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Neighbood Watch aims to bring end to vandalism, other crimes

DANNEMORA A neighborhood watch program has been established within the village by several community-minded citizens in an effort to rid their streets of criminal activity. The Dannemora Neighborhood Watch Program, as it has initially been dubbed, has been in the works for nearly a year, said chairman James Pritchard. Village of Dannemora Youth Commission coordinator Kristina ONeil was the initial driving force behind the program, though handed the reins over to Pritchard when things began to build momentum a few months ago. It took a while to get everybody on board, but we had some meetings and met with Sgt. [Wade] Wood from the Clinton County Sheriffs Department who gave us a presentation about neighborhood watch programs, explained Pritchard. We found out its more than just walking the streets. Its about building community spirit. The group of local residents hopes to grow as word of their mission spreads, said Pritchard. Currently, the group is concentrating on three or four primary streets and the playground at LaFontaine Park, where most of the trouble seems to be centered. The trouble, he said, consists mainly of minors being out after curfew making noise and, in some cases, vandalizing and stealing property. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, most of the problems seem to center around kids, said Pritchard. Theres a curfew at 10 oclock, but kids still seem to be out on the streets. The village has no dedicated police service and relies on the sheriffs department and state police to respond to calls, said Pritchard, though response times arent as fast as if a station was in the village itself. When were out on the streets walking around, were going to try to talk to these kids, not just tell them to get off the streets, explained Pritchard. We dont own the streets. But, we want to get a dialogue going and find out how to prevent them from being bored. We would rather find something constructive for these kids to do. The challenge, however, is to be able to find something for the youths to do that the group would be willing to provide, said Pritchard. Some kids want a skate park. Well, thats a lot of money and theres insurance, he said. That may not be in the works, although a number of us would love to see it happen. One of our long-term goals is to find something for these kids to do thats okay, not hanging around the streets making noise. The main point Pritchard said he wanted to get across is that the neighborhood watch program is not a vigilante group. Im not going to try to wrestle some 16-year-old to the ground to try to arrest him myself. Ill take notes and call it into the police, he said. What were doing is going to basically filter out most of the problem. What will be left over will maybe be a few hardcore kids who really just arent going to live within societys rules no matter what we say. There are other things wed rather be doing. Were all busy parents, but weve all decided that this is something important enough to make our village a nice place to live, Pritchard added. Were going to put some time into it. The Dannemora Neighborhood Watch Program group meets the third Wednesday of every month at the village office on Emmons Street. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Pritchard at 314-1213 or the village office at 492-7000, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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