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Dwindling attendance dooms Duquesne City Crime Watch

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By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
 

Duquesne City Crime Watch announced on Wednesday that it will dissolve before the end of the month because of years of declining membership.

It was formed by Marilyn Wisbar-Kurutz in 2003 as a neighborhood organization intended to build a sense of community responsibility.

The group of 200-250 residents met monthly in a community room at the local bank to learn to recognize, report and prevent criminal activity.

When crime watch board members Andy Vamos and Susi Davis informed city council of their intentions Wednesday, Mayor Phil Krivacek asked them to reconsider.

“I didn't know until this evening,” Krivacek said. “I don't think they should quit. I think they should take a break. Maybe we can come up with a solution together.”

Davis said the board has voted to conduct the final meeting on Oct. 24, but said crime watch members may reconsider if the city gets involved.

“Very reluctantly, we want to abolish it,” she said. “There's no attendance. It's been going down for months and months. We're hoping someone else will put new life in it.”

Davis and Vamos theorized that many residents might not care enough to protect their own community. Police Chief Richard Adams said that is sad, because a municipal police department is only as good as its neighbors.

“We rely on our citizens,” he said. “We want an active partner in our crime watch. We can't be everywhere, and because of that, we're only as good as people allow us to be.”

In a 2011 letter to the editor, Wisbar-Kurutz expressed disappointment in the decline following her departure from the organization for medical reasons.

“The crime watch is a very important asset to help deter crime,” she wrote. “Just watching out for one another is really just being a good neighbor. But the organization has not been fanning the flames to keep the fire going.”

She suggested conducting meetings at city hall, which she said is accessible and safe.

“Our police officers deserve the help that we used to give them,” Wisbar-Kurutz wrote. “But it is disturbing to me to see ... all the hard work that was done in the beginning go to the wayside.”

Crime watch board members said they don't know how to attract young, eager members, or how to encourage scheduled speakers to honor their commitments.

“We haven't had a guest speaker in months,” Vamos said. “We would schedule them, and they wouldn't show up. We just stopped inviting people after that.”

Councilman Elwood Martin, who sits on the crime watch board, suggested that the city and crime watch officials collaborate on ideas to generate interest and membership. City officials said they plan to attend the organization's final meeting on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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