Archived Story

Buchanan Neighborhood Watch expands with success

Published 12:15am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

As Buchanan’s popular Neighborhood Watch program approaches its third anniversary, it spread beyond city limits into surrounding communities.

“We have expanded this thing greatly,” founder Bob Hess said Monday.

There will be a meeting at 9 a.m. May 12 to plan the coming year.

Hess would like to see some sort of promotional event established, such as a community picnic.

Buchanan Neighborhood Watch first met May 9, 2009, after Hess and his wife experienced an incident that April in which someone forcibly tried to enter their home under the guise of demonstrating a cleaning product.

Police determined the vehicle was from Ohio.

Believing Buchanan needed a watch program, Hess met with Police Chief Bill Marx, who hooked him up with liaison Officer Mike Troup.

Starting at Front and Moccasin streets, Hess went to 50 or so homes and told them he wanted to start a program, which meets quarterly in the basement of Buchanan Christian Church on Moccasin at Third Street.

Usually there are a police officer and a city official present so citizens “can get comfortable with the idea that they are human beings.”

Neighborhood Watch’s role is to be the “eyes and ears of the police department,” which helps law enforcement stretch limited resources.

“Our police department is excellent,” Hess said, “very cooperative and responds quickly.”

Hess said what took the program “up a notch from the original” was making it “mechanized” with first his email mailing list and then Facebook, growing its reach into Buchanan Township, Niles, Niles Township, Galien and Bertrand Township.

They began working with Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey’s office, which has, in turn, “used us as an example to other communities. Their word of mouth helped a lot.”

Hess, who writes a weekly column for the Niles Daily Star, pastored churches for 25 years, including First Missionary Baptist for 11 years, and served 5½ years in the Air Force.

“My city and God all go hand in hand,” Hess said. “We have an obligation to friends and neighbors to protect each other. That’s what drives me. I couldn’t live in a better place than Buchanan.”

Hess said the once-visible drug problem is no longer seen.

Out-of-state vehicles have tapered off.

“I feel we’ve had a very successful effect. The police department and city hall made it a success,” Hess said.

A simple mantra has been effective: “Report what you see and do it immediately.”

“We do not pursue anyone,” Hess said. “That’s the police’s job. We get vehicle and individual descriptions if we can do it safely. It’s citizens’ responsibility to report things to the police if we want safe neighborhoods.”

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