Coaldale residents are taking back their town, one neighbor at a time.
A Neighborhood Watch has started in the borough, under the direction of police Officer Jeremy Talanca. The group met for the first time Wednesday at borough hall. The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 8.
The program is built on getting to know one's neighbors and alerting police to suspicious activity.
Talanca advised people to call the Schuylkill County communications center non-emergency number (570) 668-6100 if they see suspicious activity but do not believe they or anyone is in immediate danger. If they do believe someone is in danger, they should call 911, he said.
But please do call as soon as you see or hear suspicious activity, Talanca said. Letting police know the next day greatly reduces the chances of catching the criminal.
He offered as recent examples a couple who called 911 when a man was banging on their door to see their daughter. But they hung up before completing the call when the man left. It turned out that he had a record of violence, and police apprehended him shortly after the incident.
The time is right to form a Neighborhood Watch, Talanca said.
"As in any community, the police would be basically powerless without the community to support them and be involved 90 percent of the crimes that are called in are called in by community members," he said. "People who live in the community are more familiar with their areas, their blocks, who's coming and going from what residence. They have the day-to-day experiences with their neighbors, and know who is supposed to be there and what vehicles are normally on-site.
"If the neighborhood chooses to get involved with this kind of program, it not only assists the police, but it also helps people get to know their neighbors. There's nothing better than being in a community where you know that, if you're on vacation, not only will law enforcement watch your residence and make sure nothing happens, but your neighbors will, too," Talanca said.
The program helps residents get to know police and their neighbors on a first-name basis.
"Once we all become friends and decide to be a team, that's when we'll be successful," Talanca said.
Delaney said that residents should let police know when they plan to be away on vacation. "We'll keep an extra eye out on their property," he said.
Now that the warmer weather is here and school is about to end for the summer, a Neighborhood Watch is even more needed.
"As the summer months approach, crime usually increases," he said. "There's going to be more children out in the evenings. Now is a great time to start this program."
Talanca said that neighbors working together is the key. For example, say a man burglarizes a house, stealing a laptop. One person may see him running through backyards, while his neighbors notices he is carrying a laptop. A third may see the man getting into a car. When all three combine their knowledge, it makes it far more likely police will be able to identify and arrest the man.
"We work 24/7, but we can't be everywhere," police Chief Tim Delaney said.
When calling 911 or the non-emergency number, residents need to try to have information including what happened, when and where; whether anyone was injured, license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, any bumper stickers or damage, or which direction the vehicle was traveling. They should also try to notice if the suspicious person was wearing unique jewelry, had any scars and describe the person's height and weight as compared to their own.
One of the people to attend Wednesday's meeting was Jean Perchick. She said she now knows what to do if she sees suspicious activity.
"I really hope this will work out," she said. "It's a good thing."
Another person suggested going door-to-door to ask residents to join the program.
The June 8 meeting will include learning how to identify drug paraphernalia, Talanca said. He also expects to appoint block captains, and is looking forward to listening to residents' suggestions and ideas for the program.