Raid impresses neighborhood watch leaders

In a county targeted by drug dealers, closing rental properties where alleged drug activities, such as one on High Street this week, is the start of action leaders of groups assisting residents in neighborhood watch groups and a crime commission have been waiting to see.

“We’re glad to see it and hope to see more,” said Jeff Reeder, president of the Williamsport Citizens Corps Council and a Neighborhood Watch Group coordinator for his area near Brandon Park.

Codes, police and fire officials closed the property at 405 High St. after it had several building violations and police discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia in the open.

“We’re hoping that rental ordinance registration and enforcement kicks in next year,” said Ronald James, executive director of the Williamsport/Lycoming Crime Commission on Memorial Avenue.

Maynard Homler, a Scott Street watch coordinator, said the news was encouraging but more continues to be needed as dealers migrate around the town.

Heroin and drug problems are now flourishing in nearby communities, not only in the city.

“Until the people get the mentality that it’s not a Philadelphia-only releated problem and it’s going to impact Montoursville and other communities, they don’t get it,” James said. “Heroin doesn’t just destroy the individual, but also the community through its thefts, robberies, muggings and killings,” he said. “I’m not proud of right now,” he said. “Heroin on the loose, it’s not contained and not being challenged.”

On Thursday at 8:30 p.m., a convenience store in Hughesville was the site of an gunman robbing a store clerk. It was the second time in two months the store was targeted. It’s not known what the purpose of the robbery was, but it shows the outlying region has become subjected to problems like it never saw before, he said.

James acknowledged folks are busy shopping and preparing for meeting with family and friends over the holidays, but once the new year starts, he expects the robberies, thefts and overdoses to continue at its present pace or greater.

In preparation, James said he is planning a second series of “Bootcamp of the Mind,” an educational series that first addressed the heroin problem with adults and next will focus on getting the attention of youth.

“We can control the mice and the police can catch the rats,” James said.

Reeder, who was at the apartment raid, said the groups will continue efforts to look at troubled properties.

A social media site on Facebook is up and called Lycoming Neighborhood County Watch, he said.

“Tips are being sent out and people are watching trying to clean up the city and county,” he said.

Homler added the groups offer good advice to pedestrians and homeowners, too.

He, too, is waiting for the enforcement of the rental ordinance requiring landlords and owners of city rental properties to register their names, number of properties and occupants with codes, but doesn’t see it as the only solution.

Homler said if one doesn’t want to become a victim, don’t give criminals an easy target and don’t set patterns of a lifestyle they can pick up on, such as leaving the same hour of the day and returning at night.

“If that must be done, have someone help by checking on property while you’re gone,” he said.

Homler said simple things such as walking with your head up and not looking down at your feet can prevent assaults from occurring.

“Always check your surroundings,” he said.