With the recent surge in arrests in Lansdale - including an , , , , and an - borough residents in protecting themselves by forming a neighborhood watch.
A neighborhood watch once existed in Lansdale Borough, but it did not work, as residents either had power struggles or were patrolling for crime for the sake of finding crime.
There is no issue in forming a neighborhood watch, but there is a caveat: Residents are liable for any harm or injury, physical or otherwise, that can come with patrolling their streets for crime.
According to interim Lansdale Borough Police Chief Sgt. Alex Kromdyk, there are advantages and disadvantages of forming a town watch.
Kromdyk said the last watch about 15 years ago started out well, but ended badly for a number of reasons.
"We will certainly speak with any concerned resident or group of residents and offer support and guidance," Kromdyk said. "There are risks and liabilities associated with starting such a group whose mission is to observe and report crime."
Lansdale Police does want the public's help in deterring crime. In fact, Chief Robert McDyre - who is currently acting as interim borough manager while Timi Kirchner is on medical leave - has posted a message related to such on the Lansdale Police's website:
Law enforcement must have the support and involvement of the community to be successful. We recognize and appreciate the support that the citizens of Lansdale and the North Penn Community provide us each day. I encourage all citizens to get involved by reporting suspicious circumstances, crimes in progress, and by cooperating with police officers in their investigations. A concerned public and a professional police department are the keys to a low crime rate and a high quality of life.
Council Vice President Paul Clemente, who sits on the public safety committee, said a borough neighborhood watch is a great idea.
"I support it and I'll be happy to do what I can to help," Clemente said. "It sounds like we should discuss it at the next public safety committee meeting."
Councilman Denton Burnell said he is open to the idea of a neighborhood watch.
"I would definitely want to see this discussed in our public safety committee and get the chief's opinion," Burnell said.
Council President Matt West addressed the increase in press releases on borough crime at the start of the council meeting on June 20.
"In talking with our interim borough manager, who also wears the hat of Chief of Police, we were talking about the increased press releases having to do with police activity in our fine borough," West said. "We certainly had a few folks ask me about it - it seems as though there is a perception of increased crime in Lansdale. There seems to be a buzz around."
West said a resident had asked him about establishing a neighborhood watch.
"Certainly, I would support, and I believe most of council would support that type of thing, with the caveat being, so long as we, as the elected body, work in concert with the police department, as well as the residents," West said.
West said before a watch is formed, there needs to be a forum.
"I wanted to say that to encourage anyone interested in starting a neighborhood watch that we would like to work with the police department to first begin it with having a forum. What is it? What isn't it? What can be expected? What can't be expected?" West said.
He then had McDyre address the issue on the perceived increase in crime.
"We have had a lot of press releases on police activity. As you know, the police department has been very active recently," McDyre said. "We are very cognizant of the impact that publicizing crime can have on a community, and more importantly, the community's perception of crime."
McDyre said the police department is "walking a fine line" between publicizing crime and increased crime prevention efforts.
"It is a well established fact that the fear of crime is always greater than the actual crime," McDyre said. "I can assure you the crime is not random in Lansdale. What you're seeing is the crime rate is reducing from crime fighting efforts."
McDyre said street crime and drugs are not the only top priority in town. As a result of police efforts, Lansdale was able to reduce its crime by 30 percent over 2010 to 2011.
"It's a crime statistic we want to hold on to," McDyre said. "In doing that, I reviewed our county 2009 revitalization plan. I noticed that we related that we were a 'relatively safe' community. Not willing to accept that, our next plan will be a 'safe' community."
McDyre said the efforts has been accomplished by the boots on the ground and council's commitment to police manpower.
"Good things are happening here in Lansdale. Just as demolition will take place to make room for doing better things, we need to knock down a few doors to make way for doing better things," McDyre said.
The press releases, he said, are intended to keep council and the public informed of police activities.
"We also want to keep the bad guys informed," McDyre said. "We want them to know the message: We are coming for you."