Lehighton Area Neighborhood Crime Watch is celebrating a milestone this month – the one-year anniversary of the organization helping to make the local community a safer place to live, learn, work, and play.

"This first year has been a learning experience for everyone involved," said program coordinator Byron Schnell. "As we continue to grow, I see a bright future."

The group is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the area by helping to prevent or reduce crime by educating the community how to detect suspicious activities and properly report them to the police.

Established in 1972, Neighborhood Crime Watch has proven to be one of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country. The local campaign is an outgrowth of Lehighton Area Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

A different topic is addressed at each meeting of the community-wide organization. Suggestions for future programs are always appreciated, Schnell said.

Over the past year, programs have included how the Jim Thorpe Community Watch program started and continues to grow, the importance of video surveillance and locations where cameras should be set up throughout the area, and an extensive presentation of gang activity not in Allentown, Hazleton, or Scranton – but right here in Carbon County – specifically in the Lehighton area.

In addition, Lehighton Area Neighborhood Crime Watch has partnered with Baltimore Life to present a child identification card program and an emergency training program – specifically, how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), the proper way to execute the inward and upward thrusts of the Heimlich maneuver on a choking victim, and the procedures for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The topic of identification badges for solicitors visiting Lehighton borough and going door-to-door has also been discussed. According to Lehighton Police Chief Neal Ebbert, a template for the ID badge has been designed.

At the most recent meeting of the organization, Justin Markell and Terry Smith from Carbon County Communications Center were the guest speakers. They discussed how to properly report possible criminal activity.

According to Markell and Smith, the dispatcher will ask the caller a lot of questions in hopes of triggering recollection of important information.

"It's important to give us as much information as possible so that we can pass it on to the police," said Markell.

"The more information you can provide, the better," added Chief Ebbert. "Also, it's not illegal to take a photo."

"You know your own neighborhood. If you see something out of the ordinary, call the police immediately," said Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig. "NEVER approach a possible criminal!"

Currently, tip lines to report possible non-emergency criminal activity are 610-377-4003, 570-325-9111, and 800-452-1813. Calling 911 is reserved for emergencies only.

Approximately 100 calls are received at Carbon County Communications Center each day.

Following the presentation, Schnell explained that Lehighton Area Neighborhood Crime Watch is always looking for more community members to step forward and volunteer to help be additional "eyes and ears" of law enforcement.

Stressing the relevance of working together to help grow the organization, Lehighton Area High School Assistant Principal Daniel Repsher remarked, "It's important to build a sense of community by coming out to the meetings and getting together."

All interested community members are invited and encouraged to attend the meetings of the organization – and become involved, Schnell said. It is not just for the boroughs of Lehighton and Weissport, but also for each of the townships that comprise Lehighton Area School District – East Penn, Franklin, and Mahoning.

Lehighton Area Neighborhood Crime Watch will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, February 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Lehighton Area High School. Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein will be the guest speaker. He will discuss county prosecution procedures.

Individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations have been making donations to the community-wide program in order to purchase signs to be erected throughout the entire greater Lehighton area. In addition to the metal signs, the group also looks to purchase decals, bumper stickers, and T-shirts.

Donation cans have been distributed throughout the community. Donations may also be mailed to Lehighton Area Neighborhood Crime Watch at P.O. Box 596, Lehighton, PA 18235.

For more information, to volunteer, and / or to make a donation to the community-wide program, contact Schnell at 610-377-1926. Follow the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NeighborhoodCrimeWatch [1].

For more information about a Neighborhood Crime Watch program in general, visit www.USAonWatch.org [2]