MARSHALL - Several Marshall residents interested in forming neighborhood watch groups gathered at the Marshall Law Enforcement Center on Monday night, as local law enforcement shared strategies and resources for getting started.
"Having the public take steps to reduce the chance of being victimized, and to have the public as the eyes and ears of the police department, is really critical," said Marshall Public Safety Director Rob Yant.
About a dozen people attended the meeting, but the police department also has resource materials to help other residents who want to form watch groups.
In the first half of the meeting, Sgt. Jim Marshall of the Marshall Police shared recent crime and burglary statistics and compared them to crime rates in Marshall over the past 10 years. There were 130 burglaries reported in 2012, the highest in a decade, Marshall said. The next closest year was 2007, with 124 burglaries. Marshall said the two spikes were somewhat surprising, because otherwise burglary rates tended to stay around a consistently lower level.
While burglary rates were up in 2012, reports of theft were the lowest they've been in 10 years, Marshall said. Police records make a distinction between burglaries and thefts, he said.
"A burglary is going to involve a dwelling or business," Marshall said, while theft can include incidents like property being stolen from a vehicle.
After a rash of burglaries in September and October, Marshall said, burglary rates have dropped off significantly. Meanwhile, calls about suspicious activity were up in October and November. Two burglaries have been reported this month, but some of the more recent incidents don't share similarities with earlier burglaries, he said.
Marshall said investigations were ongoing, and police have given suspects in the incidents "a lot of attention."
Yant also discussed strategies for residents to form and maintain healthy neighborhood watch groups.
To get started, he suggested residents contact neighbors on their block or street, and invite them to a watch group meeting. Meetings don't have to be formal, he said, and they provide an opportunity for neighbors to get each other's contact information and talk about ways to deter crime and watch out for each other.
Planning neighborhood events, like participating in National Night Out, is another way for neighborhood groups to come together, he said.
The police department would also be able to provide neighborhood groups with information and resource materials from the National Neighborhood Watch Institute, as well as neighborhood watch signs, Yant said.
Two Marshall neighborhoods have already started organizing community watch groups, Yant said.
Residents looking for information or assistance in organizing a watch group can contact Kim Rupp at 537-7000.
Yant said another opportunity for residents to learn about crime prevention and law enforcement will be through the Marshall Police's Citizens' Police Academy, which will be held on Feb. 24 and March 3. Residents need to apply to attend the academy, and applications need to be submitted by Feb. 20. More information and application forms are available on the Marshall city website, marshallmn.com, and at gomarshall.net.