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Neighborhood watch group to form in Bristol

BRISTOL — With an apparent rise in drug crime and burglaries in Bristol, and the police department understaffed and strapped for resources, residents on Bristol’s Maple Street are coming together to form a neighborhood watch group.
The first planning meeting was held last Thursday at Living Well Residential Care, which is spearheading the effort to form a watch group.
A year ago two young men in ski masks charged into Living Well, located at 71 Maple St., and demanded that an employee give them prescription drugs from the residential care center’s supply for its elderly residents. To date, no one has been charged with the crime.
“The increase in crime is a problem statewide,” said Paul Kervick, a co-founder of Living Well, adding that elderly residents are particularly vulnerable because they often live alone. “When the break-in happened, we saw it as an opportunity to form a stronger community. Instead of focusing on the bad, we wanted to shift that energy into something more proactive.”
Jim Quaglino, a retired police sergeant from New Jersey, co-founded Bristol’s neighborhood watch program in the early 1990s, with Linda Lunna and Cathy LaRoche.
“Back in the ’90s there were a lot of burglaries,” Quaglino said. “Then it seemed to die down. The neighborhood watch has been there all these years. It’s there — but it’s not really very active right now.”
Quaglino, who is chair of the Police Advisory Committee, said seven people attended last Thursday’s meeting.
Neighborhood watch groups are sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association, which maintains a national registry of watch groups and publishes free pamphlets, training tips and other written resources. One resident is assigned to be a contact person, whose telephone number is given to other residents. Suspicious activity and potential crimes are reported to that contact person, who alerts the police. In turn, the police department uses the same contact person to let the neighborhood watch know if any circumstance arises that requires more awareness and scrutiny.
“It’s really just going back to how it was in the early years of this country,” Quaglino said in an interview this week. “People looking out for each other, neighbors taking care of each other.”
He noted that only three residents at Thursday’s meeting were Maple Street residents.
“We would like to have more,” he said. “If there’s interest, we’re happy to do it.”
Despite the numbers at the first meeting, Kervick is optimistic.
“We’ve spoken to pretty much everyone,” he said. “And there is a lot of interest on the block.”
Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs, who has indicated in the past that residents should take a more active role in community safety, said he is looking forward to the expansion of neighborhood watches in town.
Neighborhood watch groups will be part of the conversation at Bristol’s second crime and drug forum, which will be held in Holley Hall next Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. The public is invited.

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