If a criminals plan on committing crimes in the Fleming Community, they had better think twice about it.
The citizens of this tiny bedroom community 5 miles east of Hinesville are taking matters into their own hands to combat crime by working with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office to be its eyes, ears and mouth through the Liberty county Neighborhood Watch Program.
The program was started a year ago and spearheaded by Shelia McGinley, who became fed up with the speeders and burglaries in her Freedman Grove neighborhood and decided to take action. Organizing a meeting in the Mount Olivet Church, she and dozens of fellow community members formed the Neighborhood Watch Program with the help of the sheriff’s office.
The tenet of the program is educating program members on how to identify and report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods that will lead to safe neighborhoods and improved quality of life.
Former Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Danny Pittman, who oversees the program, said following a meeting the group held at Holton's Seafood Restaurant in Midway Thursday evening, “We don’t want citizens to confront an individual and put themselves in danger. We want them to pick up the phone and call 911 and report what they have observed and leave the rest up to law enforcement to investigate the incident.”
According to Pittman, the program is working where it exists.
“We have seen a drop in crime in areas where the citizens are involved,” he said.
During the meeting, the program’s leaders went over statistics that covered aspects ranging from traffic stops to suspicious activities for the months of January through February. The group was pleased at the number of criminal activities that had been reported and investigated in the area.
Robert King, who serves as a watch captain and works with 23 citizens in the Cook Road area, said that as a result of the program, they have busted several methamphetamine labs in the community. In addition, there has been a decrease in the number of burglaries in his area.
“We work together on watching out for neighbors’ house and property,” King said.
McGinley, who supervises the program in Fleming, said she has seen a significant drop in the number of people who would speed through her neighborhood.
“People would drive through here doing what appeared to be 70 mph,” she said. “I was afraid for my grandson when I would walk him to the school bus. Since the program began, the speeders have decreased.”
McGinley said she has also seen a decrease in the amount of criminal activity.
Sheriff Steve Sikes has thrown his full support behind the program.
"This is what's important for this community,” Sikes said at the meeting. “If we could have more participation like these people that are concerned, people that want to make a difference, we could have a great Liberty County.”
Sikes told the group the department is in the process of organizing a citizens’ program to ride along with deputies and become familiar with the functions of the sheriff’s office.
For more information, contact the sheriff’s office at 876-2131.