Citizens developing neighborhood watch in Hunterdale

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Franklin Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen is leading the effort to develop a neighborhood watch program in the Hunterdale area and has found a group of citizens willing to contribute.

Hunterdale Christian Church, led by Pastor Dean Jester, hosted a meeting Wednesday, June 7, where Kitchen asked for citizen support in starting a crime watch program.

A group of 48 citizens turned out for the meeting to hear Kitchen and members of the Franklin Police Department speak on the subject.

Kitchen explained to The Tidewater News what led up to the effort to start a neighborhood watch in the Hunterdale community.

“We noticed a little uptick in property crimes and trespassing and people trying to check car doors to see if they were locked or unlocked,” he said. “Then we noticed a couple of thefts of four-wheelers and maybe a dirt bike or two.”

He said the police did a good job of responding, and it was discovered where the stolen motorcycles and dirt bikes were going.

“One reason we got together for neighborhood watch — we’re trying to convince people if you see something, say something,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to call the police. It’s a shame that the police chief has to look online the next morning and see people’s videos of people breaking the law. So we need people to call the police and look out for each other.”

People should call 911 in the case of emergencies, but in non-emergency situations in which they are supplying tips, they can call Franklin police at 757-562-8575, Franklin Crime Solvers at 757-516-7100 or contact the FPD online at 

“We have several people that walk a lot through the neighborhoods,” Kitchen said, “and I’ve enlisted their help to call the police if you see anything suspicious, and work with the police instead of being a hindrance to the police.”

He noted that citizens who came out to the June 7 meeting came from all over Franklin, and some also came from Southampton County. He said he is trying to enlist everyone’s help to work together, including not just people who live in the Hunterdale area but also those who may spend a lot of time there.

Franklin Police Chief Steve Patterson spoke at the meeting, and in a Tuesday, June 13, interview with The Tidewater News, he said he thought the event went very well.

“There was great interaction, discussion and planning to develop a neighborhood watch for the Hunterdale community,” he said.

He explained what he thinks the benefit of this neighborhood watch program will be to the city.

“The greatest benefit for the city of Franklin is that the neighborhood watch program will be a force multiplier,” he said, “not only from a police perspective, but from the perspective of all city agencies. We cannot be everywhere all the time, so by having additional eyes and ears, we can be alerted to several issues that affect local communities above and beyond crime. Such examples are high grass, disabled vehicles, soliciting concerns, roadway issues, trash, etc., which all affect the quality of life within the community.”

He said that to have a successful neighborhood watch program, there are four ingredients needed: “A partnership between the community and the police, a willingness to get involved, communication amongst its members, and sustainability to keep the program moving forward and growing.”

Brenda Peterson, a concerned citizen who attended the June 7 meeting, said Sgt. Scott Halverson, of the FPD, gave a review of the history of the neighborhood watch program both nationwide and locally. 

“COVID created a gap in watch groups coming together and being organized, but now that COVID is over, there is a concerted effort to reignite the program not only in Ward 1 but across the city of Franklin,” she said.

She said she thinks there are many benefits to the program.

“First, the program unites neighbors in a common goal of keeping crime down and families safe,” she said. “Second, it encourages collaboration and cooperation with neighbors and the police department. With neighbors knowing each other, it is easier to spot something unusual, not being right or out of place, alerting the authorities to get help with the issue. I think this is a win-win situation for the citizens and the police department.”