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Neighborhood watch group meets in Latrobe

| Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

About 30 people gathered on Monday night in Latrobe City Council chambers for the first meeting of a revamped neighborhood watch program.

Police Chief James Bumar, reflecting on his nearly 30-year tenure, said the gathering was one of the largest to turn out in multiple attempts to form similar groups, evidence of which can be seen in signs that have remained throughout the city.

Nick Felice, executive director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, led the meeting along with Bumar to explain that the group would flourish only through resident participation.

“You have to own it; it will be your responsibility to own it,” he said.

The city is divided into zones that are patrolled by police, which do not necessarily coincide with voting wards some residents are accustomed to because of dispatch patterns, Bumar explained.

Typically, officers on duty are assigned to patrol zone 1 and 3, which include downtown and the area near ExcelaHealth Latrobe Hospital and to the west; or zones 2, 4, 5 and 6, including the eastern part of the city, said Bumar, who demonstrated using a map.

If a third officer is on duty, that person walks a downtown beat, he said.

Members of the neighborhood watch program should communicate with neighbors and the police department, but should not act as vigilantes, putting themselves in harm's way, Bumar said.

“We don't have a ‘stand your ground' law in Latrobe,” he said. “I don't think we'll have that problem; I see a lot of responsible people out here today.”

The program should help with deterrence, delay and detection of crime and criminals, because they happen when easy opportunities present themselves, he said.

Crimes, including suspicious activity, burglary, theft and assault, can be reported through neighborhood watch.

The group's next organizational meeting, open to the public for those interested in serving as zone captains or block watchers, is planned for 6:30 p.m. May 19 in council chambers at city hall, 901 Jefferson St.

Community service officer Beth Kellerman Straka said many petty crimes are linked to drug addicts trying to find enough money to buy drugs.

The city works through other programs for drug prevention, such as the burgeoning Reality Tour, which will begin in the fall. It will present a drama monthly to teenagers, as well as the National Night Out in August.

Tom Dillon, who grew up in Derry but is a city resident, said after the meeting that he and his wife, Eileen, have lived in the city for only about two years, but they are interested in the neighborhood watch in order to improve the community and eventually help it grow.

“You'd like to see the crime rate low to bring in businesses and people,” he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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