The Charlestown Police Department hosted a Block Watch interest meeting on Thursday, September 27 at 6:30 pm. The Block Watch will have regular meetings to help citizens become community parters with the department. Following is a summary of the meeting. Full audio (1hour 39 minutes) is available a the end.
Jessica Gideons welcome:
- Thanks to Chuck Ledbetter for printing the flyers. Thanks to Kim Harris and the Hester family for passing out flyers.
- Thanked everyone for their enthusiasm and for being present tonight. It means a lot to have citizens who want to partner with the police department. The department works for the citizens and he wants to make sure they’re doing a good job.
- One of the biggest hurdles they have is delayed reporting. It hurts their ability to solve cases in a timely manner when people delay their calls. They need calls to come in quickly and as a crime is occurring.
- Introduced Chuck Ledbetter who has recently retired from the department but has taken a civilian position.
- Foundational information:
- This is the second block watch program that Chief McDonald has organized. Organization is important. They will have guest speakers occasionally to keep things exciting and interesting. The police department serves every neighborhood the same. The watch is what you make of it. The police can help it get started but the police will assist. As long as there is interest, they will continue to help.
- They are not here to offend anyone. Often, people have had a negative experience with the police or they make unfair assumptions. He encourages people to remain consistent in coming and to be aware of how much the police force is limited by the judicial system. He hopes we can all learn from one another.
- He recognizes that this is a political season and wants to keep this meeting focused on the Block Watch program, no politics allowed.
- On vigilante justice: There are often comments on social media that raise eyebrows. People should not be making threats. They do respect the first amendment, but people need to be careful not to cross the line from free speech into threats. He encourages people to respect one another. He discourages vigilante justice and comments that suggest such. People should not assume to know the law, they might be surprised if a case is brought against them.
- City limits vs. Charlestown township: he welcomes everyone, even those who might not be in the city limits. Please know that there is a boundary that the CHPD cannot cross. The sheriff department should be consulted for folks who live in the county. He does encourage county folks to come to these meetings to learn though.
- Questions he cannot answer: The criminal and traffic law book is very extensive. If he’s unable to answer a question right away, please be patient and he will look it up and find out then get back to you. Laws change frequently and he doesn’t want to mislead people.
- Mission: To bring the community together and bridge the gap. To learn from one another. He hopes to build a network with CHPD officers. He hopes to have a variety of guest speakers. The chief prosecutor is one he would like to have. Most crimes must be witnessed by officers in person. Learning how the system works is a goal of these meetings. He would also like to get a judge here to discuss how the system has changed in the time since they’ve been in service. He tries to keep his officers focused on their case presentation. The judicial process doesn’t always work the way folks want it to, but there is a delicate balance that judges must maintain so we won’t always know what is involved in their decision making. He would like to have a CPR/first aid night. They could have a basic, streamlined session. People can pick and choose what meetings they want to attend. He would like to get the school resource officer in to discuss trends among the youth. He would like to have the K9 unit in to do a small demonstration. He would like to have the narcotics detective in to discuss how crimes are associated to narcotic addiction. There is a full time narcotic position and the department also has a full time criminal detective. He would like to get the SWAT team in. There are only two officers on the SWAT. There is an interagency agreement but CHPD was chosen as the Indiana State Police backup. He would like to have CHPD detective Jason Broady. That would be a nice night to come to learn about crime prevention, how to log your valuables, and describe your property. The Southern Indiana Comprehensive Treatment Center – methadone clinic. He would love to have a representative come to discuss what they do and learn the facts about their services.
- His goal is to train members of the community to organize to assist the department. He loves the Facebook Neighborhood Watch page because it reaches out and they are able to pass information along from what they see there. The Facebook page plays an important role in the block watch program.
- He wants people to know when to call. He also wants to direct people to the anonymous tip line. Most important thing is to call.
- Current city leadership, mayor and common council passed nuisance ordinance so that if a neighborhood or particular residence has repeat calls, the house can be submitted to the Board of Public Works for code violation.
- One of the things that hurts a Block Watch program is setting the expectations too high. People are busy and there might be some participant drop off over time. He encourages us to spread out the meetings over time to boost attendance.
- Thanked everyone for coming. Discussion of dispatch and the changes. In 2005, Indiana legislators saw the need for agencies to work together. Decided to consolidate each county for central communication. When funding became available they consolidated. Meetings occur regularly between the fiscal and operations boards. Goal was to bring all law enforcement, ambulance, and fire services into the same dispatch system so that they can share real-time information with each other. This allows for dispatch to get the closest unit to respond in the most efficient time. December 2014 marked the date for this consolidation. He understands how nice it was to get to know people in the community and the appeal of calling a local number and speaking to a local person. There are significant drawbacks to that system, though. The consolidated dispatch has been beneficial to overcoming those drawbacks. Now, when you call 911 or the non-emergency line, those calls go directly into one room. There are designated staff in that room who answer those calls. They are not distracted and their only position is to take the calls and dispatch assistance. When they add information into the computer system, that information is shared in real-time with the officers. Sometimes the call takers ask questions that can be confusing to callers, but they are essential to the process. The computer helps prioritize calls based on emergent needs. Officers self-dispatch and the information they provide is fed back to the dispatchers. As the call changes or is updated, information is updated on the computer system. This process saves time and increases efficiency. Even though it is not as personal as it used to be, the assistance can arrive much faster. Another benefit to the consolidated dispatch is that the computer system is synchronized in the county. This enables the various units to share information as possible offenders move around. This makes it easier to locate people and increases the likelihood that they can stop crime. The consolidated system allows all the information that is reported to appear on a daily briefing screen. When a shift changes and new officers come on duty, they’re able to get caught up quickly.
- When you see something suspicious, what do you do? Something “suspicious,” is something in your neighborhood (the place you call home) that happens outside the ordinary day-to-day activities and that looks like it could have negative outcomes. This includes something that’s out of place and someone participating in strange or out of the ordinary activity. Please feel comfortable calling in these situations. If you call something like this in, and an officer is involved, it gives officers a chance to run people through the system in case there are outstanding warrants and puts them in the system for possible future concerns. The more that is in the system, the more detectives are able to get out of it later. Even if someone is visiting a family member and you call, no officer is going to be mad. Officers are not going to mistreat people in their attempts to investigate suspicious activity. This kind of interaction sends positive messages. It shows people that folks are paying attention and fosters community connections. You can report anonymous if you call. Strict rules with dispatch ensure this anonymity. You help the officers in successful management of a case when you call quickly and provide detailed information. You can call (812) 256-CHPD or visit ctownpd.com to make non-emergency reports. Call 911 if there is an emergency.
- How do you report information? Police officers need certain information to be successful. Among the top information you can provide are:
- directional information – What street? What direction (north, east, south or west)?
- descriptions – Give details about cars (make, model, color), clothes (items, color, glasses and accessories), physical (hair color and length, height, build, gender).
- If you have a problem, dispatchers are human too and sometimes things don’t work as well as folks might hope, try to be patient. If a dispatcher is out of line, notify the police department. There are procedures in place to address complaints. You can fill out a form online at the Clark County 911 webpage. The CHPD webpage has a large amount of information including staff names and contact information.
- Technology enables officers to be out, in the community, taking action rather than being behind a desk.
- The community policing survey on the website shared by the Charlestown Courier generated 24 new responses that helped give feedback to the department.
- One thing that needs to be clarified, although the Facebook page is useful in sharing information, it is NOT a formal mechanism for reporting crimes. Officers cannot create database information from that page. Call to make a report.
- They have separated the city into four districts. The maps are available. People can sign up to be Block Watch Captains and Co-Captains for their district. These folks are the “boots on the ground” and can help spread information about upcoming meetings.
Comment 1: There is a speed issue on High Street between Market and the Middle School between 7-8:30 am and 2:45-4:30 pm.
Chris Upton, employee of Clark County 911: If you want to let them know about an ongoing issue you can call in and request an extra patrol in any affected area. But call the non-emergency number (812) 246-6996, not 911. You can also call (812) 256-6345, but you’ll have to listen to the call tree to get to a person.
Chuck Ledbetter: How to know which number to call? If it is going on now, call 911. This includes suspicious activity.
Comment 2: How many units on patrol at any time? Usually two or three. Often there will be reserves out among full time officers. Day shift there will be more out because there are detectives moving in and out as well.
Comment 3: What is the responsibility of the Block Watch Captains and Co-Captains? The captains will be contacted by the department as organizers of meetings and organization matters. When it comes to reporting suspicious behavior, call the police.
Comment 4: Is there going to be a meeting at some point on issues related to kids? Yes, there will be some conversations from the school resource officer on that. Another topic of discussion will be children and social media and the dangers of mixing the two.
Comment 5: If I have something stolen and I report it, how can I find out if there is an update on my case? Currently there is no online mechanism for getting an update. You will have to remain in contact with the investigating officers. Every six months they will do an audit of what is in the database and if an arrest is made on a case, there are links on the website that can help you track that arrest. You’re encouraged to remain in email contact with officers for updates.
Comment 6: On highway 3, folks don’t always stop for school busses. The department focused on that area for a number of weeks. If you see anything recent, please let them know so they can revisit.
Comment 7: Three stop signs in Glendale and Lisa are a problem. They will follow up.
Comment 8: Speeding is a problem on Lisa and Hodge (west). They will follow up. They will do a stationary patrol first because they need to see the event in process.
Comment 9: Denham Lane near Cardinal close to Family Dollar is having a problem with excessive school buses where the road is not wide enough for them to meet. The buses have specific routes to follow and that’s a complicated issue to solve.
Comment 10: There is a homelessness issue behind the Northside/Creekside Apartments involving some theft. (The woods between Presbyterian Church and Creekside.) There is an individual that they have trespassed a few times that is on the watch. It might be the same person.
George Roberts addressed the school bus issue.
Comment 11: Recommended that people notice shoes when making a report.
Comment 12: Problem with a dog. (Crowd noise made it difficult to hear.)
Comment 13: People are driving on the Eickholtz farm.
Comment 14: Is there anything that can be done about kids cutting through near Sunnyside? Call 911 when you see suspicious activity – needs to be the people who own the property though.
Comment 15: Can we get neighborhood watch stickers and signs? Yes but the best deterrent is active community members.
Chuck Ledbetter: There has been an upswing in door-to-door sales activity. Remember that these folks are required to get permits. If they come to your door, ask them to show you their permit.
Chief McDonald: They’re getting ready to start their beard charity program. They donate $10 each week from their paychecks into a pot until March 1 and this year they’re donating 100% of the proceeds to Stella Keith and her battle with Leukemia. If any of you want to donate, you can do so at New Washington State Bank to the FOP.
Comment 16: Owner of the Charlestown Buy/Sell Facebook group is concerned about people selling stolen goods.
Comment 17: Is there a safe meeting spot with a camera so that sale exchanges can take place? Jay C and Police Station.
Maps of the districts are here: Block Watch District Maps
Full audio available here: