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Springfield anti-crime group suspends activities

The future of Springfield’s Town Watch, a citizen-led anti-crime organization, is in doubt.
Last month, organization founder Deborah Yerger informed the township that she was effectively disbanding the organization and requested that several of the aging “criminals beware” signs that appear at the borders of the township be taken down.
“I think we are all on board with the best communication for residents, which sadly enough is no longer the Town Watch,” Yerger said following her meetings with township officials. “There are much more effective ways to reach the residents and keep them well-informed and safe from scams out there and the burglaries.”
Yerger, the president of the program since its inception in 2012, acknowledged last week that Crimewatch, the reporting tool used by county police departments, is now the go-to tool for the public, and had rendered Town Watch redundant. “The same people that sign up for our Town Watch e-mails are capable of signing up for Crimewatch updates.”
She noted Crimewatch was far more accessible to the public, whereas Town Watch was limited in what it could share with non-members. At its peak, the organization, founded in response to a rash of burglaries, had about 60 members, who spent anywhere from 24-50 hours a week patrolling the township.
Over the years, residents have complained not all have access to computers and have recommended that police send reports and alerts to area news outlets, several of whom now relay the information posted on Crimewatch.
Addressing the issue at the July 28 supervisors meeting, Manager Jason Wager confirmed the program was inactive and said the township was “still gathering information” for supervisors, who have asked to be briefed by the police department. During their July 14 meeting, board members were reluctant to see it go. “We want to encourage citizen participation, and before we allow Town Watch to walk away, we must see if there is a way to resurrect it,” said Supervisor Jim Hopkins.
“They stand out. The message they send is important,” observed Hopkins of the signs.
Supervisor Pete Kade also acknowledged their value. “When I see them, I know I’m in the township.”

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