Summit Police Talk Neighborhood Safety
At a recent event, Summit Police Chief Robert Weck and his Community Police force talked to residents about shaping up the city's Neighborhood Watch program.
In late March, while a Summit man was working in his basement an intruder entered his home through an unopened door and began rummaging around. The man rushed upstairs and after a quick confrontation the intruder fled. Watchful neighbors saw a man dashing through yards attempting to escape, and they called police. Soon after, Summit Police had a suspect in custody with the help of eyewitnesses.
Police Chief Robert Weck used that story to illustrate how a community working together can help fight crime. He was speaking during a recent meeting for the Neighborhood Watch program at City Hall. Summit’s lead Neighborhood Watch cop, and head of the new Community Policing unit, Sgt. Ron Martin, and keynote speaker, retired state police captain Howie Butt, joined Weck along with block captains and Neighborhood Watch participants in April.
A Neighborhood Watch program is a group of people who live in the same area and want to make their neighborhood safer. Neighbors do this by working together in conjunction with local law enforcement, to reduce crime and improve their quality of life.
Weck stressed the importance of communication at the meeting. “We always want you to call us,” he told the crowd of Summit residents. “It might just be a raccoon knocking something over, but call the police if you are concerned about something,” he said. The department’s motto: “Call right away, without delay.”
Media coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death, which followed a Neighborhood Watch block captain’s call to police, has given the watch program a bad rap. However, the message from Butt was that neighbors should always report suspicious activity. “Behaviors or activities make someone suspicious, not racial profiling,” he said.
Butt told audience members to be alert to goings on in their neighborhood. “Be alert for anything that seems out of place for the time and location,” he instructed. When calling police, residents were reminded to be specific in what they observe. “Tell what you saw, not what you think you saw,” said Butt.
Other tips for making calls to police include writing down observations as soon as possible, and including detailed descriptions of suspects. Butt warned residents to leave the rough stuff to police. “Your job is to report suspicious activities. Do not confront people,” he said. “In New Jersey, the only place you can stand your ground is in your home. If you are on the street your responsibility is to get out of there. You are not to confront anyone.”
Weck said that he wanted Summit residents to become the eyes and ears of law enforcement, and bond through their service to one another. The Neighborhood Watch program, he said, is not just about crime; it’s also about helping out our neighbors.
The program is also about strengthening ties with the Summit Police Department.
Community officer Kathy Maggiulli said that local 911 calls go directly to the Summit Fire Department and encouraged residents to dial the Summit police department directly for Neighborhood Watch concerns at (908) 273-0051.
At the meeting last month there was a total of eight Neighborhood Watch groups established in Summit. The groups began to form in February, about a month after Weck took over as police chief, ready to implement new ideas of police-community engagement.
But as Weck gets credit for bringing a Neighborhood Watch program back to Summit, it’s Ron Martin who is tasked with seeing it through. “I live in Summit. I work in Summit. I worship in Summit,” Martin told the crowd. “My mom and dad live in Summit. Our daughter goes to school in Summit,” he continued. “I’m committed to the Summit community.”
It was clear the Community Policing Unit, and Martin’s passion for protecting and educating the citizens of Summit is getting the same support in return. “Sgt. Martin was so passionate about reviving the Neighborhood Watch program that we caught his enthusiasm,” said Summit resident Bruce Chambeau. “We’re confident that the people of Summit will rise to the cause and make the program successful.”
For Martin, there’s no other option. “We will not rest until we have every neighborhood of Summit signed up for Neighborhood Watch.”