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Bullskin Township residents urged to be proactive, responsible

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

Representatives from Connellsville and Scottdale police departments addressed the Bullskin Township Neighborhood Watch on Feb. 26 about the importance of being proactive, but not going too far.

“Crime watches are very, very good,” said Jim Capitos, police chief for Connellsville.

He was joined by Dennis Elcock, assistant police chief for Scottdale.

Neither Connellsville nor Scottdale have an active neighborhood watch. Watches are not normally established in more urban areas or municipalities with 24-hour police departments, they said.

While the Neighborhood Watch covers Bullskin as well as some surrounding areas, and Pennsylvania State Police troopers are the responders, Capitos and Elcock said their respective departments can be dispatched to assist.

On the one-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's fatal shooting in Florida, the officers spoke about how that was an example of a very good idea of a neighborhood watch that got out of hand.

George Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch group, faces charges in Martin's shooting. Zimmerman claims that Martin was acting suspiciously at the time of the incident.

Capitos and Elcock stressed that it's important to be proactive, but not go too far.

“You don't need to patrol the streets with baseball bats. You can be just as proactive with this,” Capitos said, showing his cellphone.

Capitos said one of the most important aspects of a neighborhood watch is knowing people in the neighborhood and knowing when something looks out of place.

“If you see a suspicious person or a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood, call the state police,” Capitos said.

Elcock said that even if something seems insignificant, it could be something that could help a police officer in an ongoing case.

Residents asked which crimes are most prevalent in Connellsville and Scottdale. Capitos and Elcock said that more than 90 percent of crimes are connected to drugs, especially the abuse of heroin and prescription pain medication.

“Most of our crimes are linked to this,” Elcock said. “These people will steal anything that's not bolted down.”

They added that those criminals often will target vehicles, walking up and down rows of vehicles along streets, testing each door handle, and when they find one that's not locked, they'll enter the vehicle and steal whatever they can and sell it for drug money.

Those attending the meeting were warned about con artists on the Internet and to not provide personal information to strangers or open emails from people they don't know — especially not email attachments.

“Nobody ever won $5 million for answering an email,” Elcock said.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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