March 25 06:28 AM

Clerk hopes to spark Neighborhood Watch

Protecting residents against thefts & break-ins subject of upcoming meeting

November 25, 2009
BERLIN TWP. — What do driving a school bus and home security have in common? Township clerk Kathy Klos.

The longtime Almont School District bus driver wants township residents to connect with each other in an effort to thwart break-ins and larcenies. After hosting a quarterly Clerk's Association meeting in Capac with deputy clerk Sandy Dzieszkowski, Klos decided to investigate the possibility of starting a Neighborhood-Watch-type program in the township.

Klos says the Clerk's Association frequently suggests topics for presentations, and 'Identity Theft' was brought up at the Capac meeting.

"I thought, 'you know, Berlin Township people don't have any idea how many break-ins are happening here, right around our own homes to our neighbors," Klos says.

Working in conjunction with Deputy Scott Baldwin of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Dept., Klos arranged for a Neighborhood Watch workshop at the township hall on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. A sheriff deputy will present the program, which is expected to last less than an hour.

"I encourage residents to come and to encourage their neighbors to do the same," Klos says.

Baldwin says being aware—even if not implementing a formal 'Neighborhood Watch' program—is worth the effort.

"The main point is to get a group of people together to heighten awareness of things that are going on in the area," Baldwin says. "The idea is to look out for each other and each other's property."

Baldwin says he's investigated many cases where people did see something unusual, but didn't think it was important or didn't report it.

"Sometimes there's a pattern amongst a group of people and sometimes those clues can lead to good information," he says.

Klos knows all about the clues. As an Almont school bus driver, she was enrolled in a 'Highway Watch' course where they were trained to spot unusual or suspicious situations.

"They told us what to look for—whether it's terrorism or break-ins—and have it looked into right away," Klos says.

Klos says people appreciate their training, and understand that bus drivers can be the "eyes and ears of the community."

"We even have families call in when they're missing a dog, to see if we can keep an eye out," she says.

Both Klos and Baldwin would like to encourage networking amongst neighbors and awareness of what's familiar.

"We need to know how to get ahold of neighbors or their kids if we see something unusual," Klos says. "We can't catch everything but if we catch one maybe we save five others (from break-ins).

According to the sheriff's department, there were 19 B & Es of buildings in the township last year. The number so far this year is 12. As for auto B & Es, ten were reported in 2008; seven have been reported so far this year—though Baldwin cautions that those numbers are misleading.

"We'll take 16 auto reports but there's never a forced entry, the cars are being left unlocked," Baldwin says. "I don't remember the last time there was a forced entry. They say crime thrives on opportunity and the days of leaving things unlocked and unsecure are gone."

For more information on the Dec. 3 meeting call the township hall at 586-784-9969.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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