The Jim Thorpe Community Watch held its first meeting of the year Thursday night at Memorial Hall and listened to comments from Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko, Police Chief Joseph Schatz, and Officer Eric Schrantz.

Those attending also watched and listened to a PowerPoint presentation on gangs given by guest speaker, Officer Justin Sannie.

The borough of Jim Thorpe, like many communities nationwide, is faced with the growing problems of gangs and drug use.

Community Watch is a citizen's involvement program where citizens, in cooperation with their local police department, directly participate in the detection and prevention of crime. Participating citizens are trained how to recognize suspicious or criminal activities and report these activities to their police department.

A Community Watch – neighbors looking out for neighbors – does not take the place of the police department in enforcing the law or apprehending criminals. It does provide valuable information to the local law enforcement agency, which then investigates suspicious activities, apprehends criminals, and prevents crime.

When neighbors organize to help the police watch over their community, they can make a significant impact on reducing crime and fear in their area.

"We're getting our officers training," said Sofranko. "We are out there. We're getting ready. The chief is implementing a lot of changes and we are out there and we're taking care of the problem.

"It doesn't happen overnight. We have admitted and addressed that there is a problem and we're going to solve it."

Sofranko added that they want people to note that this is a "community" watch.

"It's your community; you help me watch that community and we'll get the job done. Let the police do the crime fighting; let the community do the watching, and if you think someone's being too nosy, too bad, we care about our community."

Watch coordinator Jamie Solomon noted that Jim Thorpe Community Watch had 99 members, but gained new members at last night's meeting.

"The meeting tonight covered gangs and drugs in Jim Thorpe," said Solomon, "and we also wanted to get our groups together to start walking in areas of town such as the east side, the west side, and Leisureland.

"Each group will pick a date in the month and all the volunteers that they can get are going to walk about and show their presence in the community."

The first group walk is March 31 at 6:30 p.m. and the group will meet at Memorial Hall.

As to when and how to report a potential problem to the police, Officer Schrantz noted that "if it's an emergency, call 911 and if you desire to remain anonymous, it is not necessary to leave your name. Just leave your phone number and an officer will return your call."

He said if it is a non-emergency, residents can call (570) 325-9111 to contact the police department.

People can also e-mail the police department at jtpd@ptd.net, or e-mail directly to Chief Schatz at chief@jtpolice.org.

The PowerPoint presentation on gangs given by Officer Sannie, used photographs and his explanations of them, indicated the signs to look for when gang activity is present in the community. These indicators ranged from signs and emblems to clothing styles and specific colors and numbers.

Officer Sannie also gave a brief history of gangs and their development and spread around the country.

At the conclusion of the presentations, an open discussion was held with the mayor and officers answering questions.

"I want to thank the residents for showing their concern and coming out tonight to help us out and combat the drugs here in the borough of Jim Thorpe," said Chief Schatz.

Anyone interested in joining the Jim Thorpe Community Watch can contact Solomon at (570) 325-4995.

Their meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month from March to October.