Neighbors, Police Work Together To Clean Up Crime In Augusta

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Gary and Myrna Rogers patrol their neighborhood but they don't wear badges. They simply wear the love of their small-town community on their sleeves.

"We care," Myrna said. "That is basically what it is."

The Rogers have helped turn the crime situation around in their Augusta neighborhood by facilitating cooperation between their neighbors and the police department.

In a matter of months, the new neighborhood watch group has helped police clean up the 1100 block of Euclid Street where drug activity and burglaries had become commonplace.

Police say thanks to that partnership, police soon will charge two people in relation to the criminal activity that was once on the street. One of the two people to be charged led Wichita Police on a high-speed chase and is also suspected in a series of copper thefts.

The Rogers say their efforts are not about taking policing into their own hands. They say that can be dangerous as proved last year by the case of Trayvon Martin's shooting by a neighborhood watch member last year. Instead, they say they're working to help police by providing information.

"They've become, let's say, our eyes and ears," Augusta Police Chief Tyler Brewer said.

Police sent out a letter last fall to people on Euclid Street after the problems had worsened. They also went on foot patrol, talking to people about the crime on their street. Police asked for their help.

They got that help and then some.

The Rogers led a charge to organize their neighbors. They hosted a meeting at their own home with police and city leaders.

The meeting gave police an opportunity to give neighbors some ideas of how to help. Brewer says one key thing he asked was that neighbors call 911 first instead of posting about their concerns on Facebook and Twitter, as they had been doing.

It wasn't long after the meeting, police saw results.

"We received more calls and our officers began to gather more information," Brewer said.

Police then also worked with landlords to evict some of the troublemakers and worked with the Augusta City Manager to light the street more.

All the teamwork essentially helped do away with all the crime.

"We've reduced a lot of the problems," Brewer said.

He says the partnerships have been key to making the community safer, especially after budget cuts slashed his department's patrol staffing by 25 percent.

"We had to find other solutions and one of those was working with neighborhoods," Brewer said. "

The new neighborhood watch group also has laid the groundwork for the future.

The Rogers are working to keep the partnership with police going even though most of the problems in their neighborhood have been resolved.

They have helped coordinate foot patrols of their street and the alleys behind their homes. They also have meetings and programs planned.

"We are trying to keep the momentum," Gary said. "Once you get the ball rolling, you don't drop it. You keep it moving."

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