Neighborhood Watch more than community policing, residents say

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- For everyone who thinks a neighborhood watch program is just a community policing system, Niles' Silverbrook Manufactured Homes Community is here to prove you wrong.
In addition to making the neighborhood a safer place, the community's neighborhood watch program acts as everything from a social outlet to an educational outreach program.
Pam Wickler, the organizer of their neighborhood watch program, called the program "a neighborhood get together to make the community a better place."
On Thursday at 2 p.m., the neighborhood watch group will be holding a special informational meeting with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department. The meeting is open to the public and will take place in the community's clubhouse.
Wickler said this would be a perfect opportunity for members of other neighborhoods to come and learn about how to start their own watch programs.
The group has only been in existence for a year now and Wickler is very happy with their progress.
One of the goals was to get all of the neighborhood's residents to have markers that clearly indicate their addresses.
Another big project that the neighborhood watch program undertook was having the small community's bus stop moved from the entrance to the back of the community by the office building.
The group worked with the Brandywine and Niles school systems to make the move because they believed it was a safer location for the children and it would be less of a traffic problem.
In September, the group put on a summer picnic in which they brought in McGruff the Crime Dog for the children.
They also made calls to the police that successfully thwarted a breaking and entering attempt and led to the removal of two non-residents who were speeding through their streets on four wheelers.
One of Wickler's responsibilities as the group's organizer is to bring in different speakers to educate the residents in any area that want to learn more about.
Last year, the program brought in employees from the Sheriff's department, fire department, the drug unit and SMCAS to talk on a variety of safety related topics.
So far, this year's list of educational subjects includes a speaker on preparing for natural disasters, a bicycle safety course and CPR training.
Wickler said the neighborhood watch program does everything they can to help out their fellow residents.
If you are out of town, other residents will keep an eye on your house. If you can't get out of the house, they will see that you can get where you need to go.
The group is even in the process of organizing a recycling program for the community.
If you would like to learn more about neighborhood watch programs, their informational meeting will be held on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the community's office/clubhouse located at 2300 E. Main St. in the back of the Silverbrook Manufactured Homes Community.

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