Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton looks back to a 2017 New Haven area incident as a great example of how successful Neighborhood Watch groups can be.
The sheriff explained that the quick thinking of members of the Kiel-Lyon Neighborhood Watch group assisted authorities in solving a string of burglaries in another part of the county.
According to Pelton, the residents took photos of a suspicious vehicle, contacted authorities, and then the next day the vehicle was recognized in a different area.
Because of that type of collaboration, Pelton encourages new Neighborhood Watch groups to form in the county.
On June 11, Pelton and Deputy James O’Fallon met with a newly formed Neighborhood Watch group in Anaconda. There were 36 people who attended the kickoff meeting.
“That is such a great showing,” he said. “We are really excited about this group and we are excited for the Anaconda community.”
The Anaconda meeting was organized by word of mouth and more area residents are invited to attend the next meeting to be held in July.
For more information about the group in Anaconda, people may contact Wendy Hartmann, 314-210-9648, or Dennis Hartmann, 636-221-9377.
Anyone looking to organize a Neighborhood Watch can contact O’Fallon directly at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department at 636-583-2560.
According to Wendy Hartmann, the group was started after Dennis Hartmann completed the Franklin County Sheriff’s Citizen Academy in May.
“Once he told me about the neighborhood watch program, I knew we wanted to be a part of this in our area. We have an unofficial watch group in our subdivision because we do watch out for each other but I wanted to expand to the neighbors beyond our subdivision,” Wendy Hartmann said. “I reached out to two neighbors and they were all excited and it grew from there. ”
The group leaders are the Hartmanns and Ken Scott.
She added that the center of the group’s geographic area is the Franklin County Special Education Cooperative. The group incorporates about a 5-mile radius from the school.
In the first meeting there were residents from West Springfield Road, Peacock Road, Pickles Ford Road, Wing Drive, Anaconda Road and St. Louis Inn Road, Wendy Hartmann said.
She noted that plans are underway for a second meeting, an ice cream social, July 16.
“I want to build the relationships with our neighbors and become a support system for each other,” Hartmann said. “This was happening the first night.”
Hartmann said she reached out to co-op administrators because she sought to partner with their staff to help be the “watchdogs” for students and staff. Dr. Cheri Fortney, director at the co-op, is involved in the watch group and she has offered the school as a meeting location.
“I believe it’s important to support and partner with our first responders so I reached out to our local police, fire and ambulance departments to make them aware, and they are very supportive,” she added.
The Anaconda Neighborhood Watch group joins more than 10 other groups scattered throughout the county.
According to the sheriff’s office, there are active groups in areas such as Lonedell, Beaufort-Leslie, Kiel-Lyon, Neier, Grand Army (Labadie) and Terrace Hill (Gray Summit), and other communities in the county.
The citizen movement has been practiced since the 1970s in Franklin County and officials began seeing a resurgence three years ago due to a 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.
“We are stronger together,” Pelton said. “We encourage these groups.”
According to Pelton, the sheriff’s office can more easily spread information through Neighborhood Watch networks.
He noted 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.
Neighborhood Watch groups have been successful in efforts to thwart crime and lead authorities to suspects.
In the 2017 New Haven area case, the work of neighbors led to charges against Justin I. Baxter, 20, and James A. Altemeyer, 22, both of Washington.
Pelton said a concerned citizen reported a suspicious vehicle in the area of Highway C south of New Haven. The witness said the vehicle was driving slowly through a residential area and the occupants of the vehicle may have been looking for homes to break into.
Deputies and New Haven police were notified of the incident and located a vehicle matching the description of the Highway C vehicle that was located in a New Haven bank lot.
Authorities recovered a large amount of stolen property inside the vehicle which was linked to three residences in the county. Meanwhile, victims contacted the sheriff’s office to report the burglaries. The burglarized homes are located in Forest Hills Subdivision, Washington; on Bucklick Road, New Haven; and on North Bend Road in Union.
Baxter and Altemeyer were charged in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with two counts of second-degree burglary, felony stealing and property damage.
Baxter was sentenced in January to five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Altemeyer is slated to appear in front of Circuit Judge Craig E. Hellmann June 25 on the burglary charges and a 2018 drug possession charge.
In 2015, a Neier area Neighborhood Watch group was formed 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.