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Deputy Barry Whitfield explains how a neighborhood watch functions during a presentation at the Dearing Town Council meeting.

In recent months, Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley has been talking about the possible reestablishment of a neighborhood watch in or around Dearing.

Earlier this month, McDuffie County Deputy Barry Whitfield spoke at the town council meeting and began to rally citizen support for a neighborhood watch. With more than a dozen area residents in attendance, Whitfield shared details of the benefits of a neighborhood watch.

“A neighborhood watch is very, very important,” Whitfield explained as he shared a questionnaire.

The deputy said that questionnaire helps him understand what issues are important to members of the public wanting to establish a neighborhood watch. The questions ranged from ones asking if they have been a victim of a crime to others asking if they have taken steps to increase security around their homes. Once the audience completed the questionnaires, Whitfield collected them.

“I save them and I read them, and after I read them I turn them in to the sheriff to actually read them,” Whitfield said. “When they have their monthly sergeants’ meetings they go over these questionnaires. They don’t just sit in my office.”

He provided each member of the audience with a booklet that explained the what, why, how, and who of neighborhood watch programs. Local neighborhood watch groups are structured under the National Neighborhood Watch Program.

“These books are designed to allowed you to know what you are getting into, especially as far as volunteering,” he added. “Here in McDuffie County we are asking you to be the eyes and ears of your neighborhoods. We want to partner with you.”

He pointed to Deerfield Estates as a great location to establish a neighborhood watch, in particular since there is only one way in and one way out. He also shared how getting involved in a neighborhood watch helps people learn about their surrounding community.

“One way of getting to know your neighbors is through a neighborhood watch,” Whitfield explained.

He said he is simply asking those involved in a neighborhood watch to report what they see.

“We’re not asking you to be the police. We are just asking you to partner up with us and be patient,” the deputy said.

Whitfield said he would like to see a Citizens Observer Patrol here in McDuffie County. The program began years ago in Orlando, Fla.

“The perfect place for COP is Dearing, Georgia,” Whitfield said.

He continued and said the most important job in a neighborhood watch is knowing what type of activities to report. Then he elaborated on the need to understand what type of incident is occurring or has occurred, if the crime still in progress, when it occurred, how many suspects, and many other things that sheriff’s deputies will find useful.

“All of these things are just part of being the eyes and ears,” he said. “We have to partner up with one another.”

He then shifted to explaining criminal activity.

“There are three basic elements present for a criminal to commit a crime,” he said.

In a back-and-forth dialogue with the audience, Whitfield explained the first element is opportunity and then shared examples such as a lawnmower being left outside, a window left unlocked, or a garage door left open. The second element is motive. Whitfield explained that the resident cannot control motive. The only person in control of motive is the criminal.

The third element is the criminal’s ability, which like motive cannot be prevented by residents. Residents however can control whether there is an easy opportunity presented that might entice a criminal to act. Removing opportunities is all part of crime prevention, according to Whitfield.

Whitfield will continue working to form neighborhood watch groups in or around Dearing and said information would be shared with the Town of Dearing and The McDuffie Progress.