Steve Pelton

Neighborhood Watch programs are effective in building a strong network to help fight crime and more organizations are welcome in the county.

That’s the message Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton is sending to residents.

Pelton attended a picnic hosted by a Beaufort area Neighborhood Watch program Tuesday. He explained that the group is one of five active in the county.

The citizen movement has been practiced since the 1970s in Franklin County and officials began seeing a resurgence two years ago due to a recent jump in rural crimes.

Neighborhood Watch groups serve as eyes and ears for law enforcement officers and are especially valuable in rural parts of the county that are sparsely populated. “It is a great way to cut crime by working together — it is great to have eyes and ears watching neighbors,” Pelton said.

“Crime should not be a secret.”

He added that Neighborhood Watch groups have been successful in efforts to thwart crime and lead authorities to suspects.

Earlier this year organized residents helped authorities nab two fugitives in the Highway BB area who were driving a stolen vehicle.

In 2015, a group was formed in the Neier area after a rash of burglaries. In February 2016, information provided by the group led to the arrest of a suspect who was charged with multiple felonies.

“We have had cases where neighbors were tracking a suspect and giving us live intel on where he was at,” said Pelton. “It is just neighbors being aware of crime that is going on in their area.”

Active Groups

There are five active Neighborhood Watch groups that are aided by the sheriff’s office. That includes the Beaufort group with about 30 households, the Neier group which has an estimated 30-40 households.

There also is a group in the Campbellton area with about 30 households, a Neighborhood Watch group in the Forest Hills subdivision off Highway 47 between Union and Washington with about 15 households; and a watch in Villa Ridge with 10 households.

While most of these groups are in a rural area where there is a greater distance between homes, Pelton also encourages groups to form in subdivisions where neighbors are closer.

“It’s also a great tool in subdivisions where houses are close together and neighbors can identify patterns and contact law enforcement when they suspect something out of the ordinary,” he said.

According to Pelton, the sheriff’s office can more easily spread information through Neighborhood Watch networks.

“If something is going on in their area, we can share information with them and get that into their network,” he commented.

Successful watches often are comprised of a variety of members who have different schedules. That includes retirees, who are home during the day and farmers because they are usually up and outside in the early morning hours.

“We encourage people to form groups and we are in the position to help facilitate that,” Pelton said. “We welcome anybody who wants to collaborate with the community and law enforcement — it is a great way to stop crime.”

Anyone seeking more information on starting a Neighborhood Watch can contact Pelton directly at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department at 636-583-2560.