By Pete Soyer
An idea that started on a street corner in east Havre a year ago is beginning to develop into an organization.
Rod Rick, an organizer of Crime Watch, said he was tired of seeing the neighborhood he lives in being used as a hangout for drug dealers and other troublemakers. Rick has lived in the same house in east Havre for 19 years and said crime has increased in the recent years. He thinks the biggest problem is drug dealing and using.
He wanted to do something about crime so he started talking to people and sparked an interest.
"Something needed to be done," he said.
Rick went around knocking on doors and talking to neighbors. He talked to about 50 to 75 people and no one thought Crime Watch was a bad idea. People might "turn a blind eye, but most people want to do something," he said.
The first meeting was set for a Sunday afternoon in a park. Last Sunday 11 people attended the second meeting. A third meeting is going to happen on July 29. Rick said it is growing into a community program, not just a neighborhood program.
People on the east side of Havre want to target drug activity. Rick said kids are coming into the neighborhood and buying and using drugs like methamphetamine and marijuana.
"Parents are finding their kids in our part of town," Rick said.
Police Capt. Mike Barthel said east Havre has more calls for service than other areas of town but he doesn't think Havre's drug problem is concentrated in east Havre. "I believe the drug problem is citywide," he said.
People don't have to go through the police department to set up a crime watch organization, he said, but the police will do what they can to help.
Rick said he is still trolling for people interested in joining Crime Watch. He said members from different neighborhoods will be asked to make a list of the top five laws that aren't being followed in their area and Crime Watch will go after the top item. Rick said No. 1 eventually will turn into No. 4 and that will be a big accomplishment.
Crime Watch will provide information it receives to police to help them catch people committing crimes.
"We can't expect police to do it all. They need our help," he said.
Rick said organized patrols will survey neighborhoods when people have time. Crime Watch will tell landlords about suspected drug activity on their properties.
"What we see, the landlord is going to find out about," Rick said.
Crime Watch will have a voice mail number for concerns, complaints and suggestions, and everything will be logged into a computer, he said.
Renee Knowlton of east Havre said she's planning to join the group.
"I do think it's needed. There are kids running all the time," she said. Knowlton said she has never seen people using drugs, but thinks it is a problem.
Debra LaTray, a member of Crime Watch who lives in east Havre, said the whole community needs to become involved. Once people targeted by Crime Watch start moving out of east Havre, they will go to other neighborhoods in town, she said. The goal of Crime Watch is to move the people completely out of town "the right way, not the wrong way," LaTray said.
The next Crime Watch meeting is July 29 at 2 p.m. at the U.S. Department of Agriculture office. For more information, call Rick at 390-3242.