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It doesn’t always take a lot to watch out for someone else.

Maxine Turner cites a couple of examples.

She knows an elderly woman who puts a piece of cardboard in her window when she goes to bed at night.

The next day, she removes the cardboard by 8 a.m. — to let her neighbor know she’s OK. If the cardboard was still in place, the neighbor might suspect something was wrong and check on her.

Another woman does basically the same thing — closing her drapes before bed and opening them in the morning — so a neighbor knows she’s all right.

Turner believes Fremonters can benefit even more by getting involved in the Neighborhood Watch program.

She’s part of the Fremont Area Women of Today group. Next week, the group is sponsoring a Citywide Neighborhood Watch Reorganizational meeting.

Turner hopes local residents will attend the meeting. It will start at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at First State Bank, 1005 E. 23rd St., in Fremont. Attendees can get a starter packet.

Some Fremonters may think they already have a Neighborhood Watch group in their area, because of a posted sign.

But the city only has two Neighborhood Watch groups.

One is Turner’s group near Clemmons Park and the other is in the northwest part of Fremont.

“People have to get involved to organize their Neighborhood Watches,” Turner said.

To help form more groups, the Women of Today organization hosted a reorganizational meeting in 2018.

Seven people expressed interest, but the town still only has the two groups.

Turner said brochures about the program and meeting were handed out at the recent National Night Out event at John C. Fremont City Park.

A Neighborhood Watch program involves groups of people living in the same areas, who want to make their neighborhoods safer by working together and with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve their quality of life.

Each neighborhood would form a group of residents.

A chairperson meets and greets neighbors and sees who’d like to participate. Participation is voluntary. The chairperson would collect the participants’ contact information. The chairperson decides how big the group will be and organizes the gatherings.

Some people might not think they have time to be involved.

But Turner said once a neighborhood group is set up, it only meets once or twice a year.

After a neighborhood is organized, Turner said the Women of Today group hopes to have a joint meeting with all the chairmen once a year.

Turner’s group covers an “L”-shaped area from Luther Road to Garden City Road and from there to 16th Street. Her group gathers about two or three times a year, once with a potluck.

“We kind of watch out for each other,” Turner said. “If we see anything going on in the neighborhood, we call law enforcement. We’re like their eyes and ears.”

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Fremont Police Lt. Kurt Bottorff has talked about the important roles the groups can play.

“They look for suspicious activity not only during the day but at night. This may involve unknown vehicles parked in their area, loitering in the streets, damaged property or other reportable measures,” he said. “They really are the voice of the community.”

Bottorff said community watch groups are more aware of issues involving their neighborhoods than the police could monitor on a day-by-day basis.

Turner noted other ways group members help each other.

“If people are gone on vacation, we watch their homes,” she said.

They keep an eye on elderly neighbors, too.

A Neighborhood Watch participant might notice that mail or newspapers have been piling up on someone’s front porch for a couple of days — and that the person didn’t mention plans to go somewhere.

Or — as in the case of the woman with the cardboard — a neighbor might check if it isn’t removed when expected.

Turner noted that older people might have medical alert buttons, but they might not activate them if they’ve fallen and gotten knocked out.

“Since we started our Neighborhood Watch, I feel that our neighbors watch out for each other more than they did before,” Turner said.

Neighborhood Watch also builds a partnership with the police department. Police have major sources of information on local crime patterns, crime prevention education and crime reporting.

Once a Neighborhood Watch group is organized, city officials and law enforcement can come to their meetings to address issues and talk about problem solving.

Law enforcement can become more aware of issues in a given neighborhood.

Neighborhood watch participants also can share information about scams like when impostors call, falsely claiming that a would-be victim owes money to the Internal Revenue Service.

Turner added that a few years ago, someone was going door to door saying they’d come to the area after a hurricane and were collecting money to buy diapers for their little one.

When residents said they’d just buy them the diapers, those people, who just wanted cash, never returned.

Other scam artists say they want upfront money to make roof, sidewalk or other home repairs.

That’s where people in a Neighborhood Watch group could tip each other off.

Someday, Turner would like to have a “calling tree,” where if something is going on in one area of town — like several car break-ins or vandalism — that Neighborhood Watch chairmen in other areas could be alerted.

People in those neighborhoods then could start watching cars or other property more closely.

Turner hopes people attend the meeting.

She said those unable to attend the meeting may call Lt. Kurt Bottorff at 402-727-2677.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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