By Gregg Jones

Missourian Staff Writer

The number of tightly knit neighborhood watch groups continues to grow within Franklin County.

The most recent organization in the Lonedell area held a kickoff meeting Tuesday with concerned residents and Franklin County Sheriffs’s Department staff.

Sheriff Steve Pelton said this group is the sixth active group in the county.

“This is a very motivated group,” he told The Missourian. “It is a rural part of the county that encompasses a large part of the county.”

Pelton and Deputy James O’Fallon met with the newly established Lonedell Community Watch.

“Everyone at the sheriff’s office is very excited about it,” Pelton added.

In addition to the new Lonedell group, Detective Sgt. James Briggs visited with the already established Beaufort-Leslie Neighborhood Watch.

In all, there are six active neighborhood watch groups in Franklin County, according to Pelton.

That includes the Lonedell and Leslie groups, as well as those at Kiel-Lyon, Neier, Grand Army (Labadie) and Terrace Hill (Gray Summit).

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.

“We like to encourage citizens to stay active,” Pelton said.

“We are stronger when working together,” Pelton said. “It is great to have eyes and ears watching neighbors — it is truly a great tool to cut crime.”

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

He added that 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.

Last year organized residents helped authorities nab two fugitives in the Highway BB area who were driving a stolen vehicle, Pelton noted.

Information was shared by neighbors connected through social media. The residents had descriptions of the suspects and reported sightings in “real time.”

In 2015, the Neier area 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.

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

Those seeking information about the Lonedell group should contact Renae Moore at renaew01@gmail.com.

Anyone looking to join the Beaufort-Leslie group can email Annie Buehrle at arinne611@yahoo.