Addison neighborhood watch group still active
ADDISON — Although Addison residents say crime in their town has slowed dramatically with alleged serial burglar and town resident Raymond Ritchie behind bars for the past year, the Addison Community Watch remains active, said watch organizer Lorraine Franklin.
“The group is still very much in place,” Franklin said. “If something does happen, we get the word out.”
Addison Community Watch received support from the town selectboard to buy signs warning potential criminals of the organization, and membership remains strong, Franklin said, although half of the town’s watch zones still need captains.
However, said Franklin (who is a signer of the organization’s first letter along with Becky Darragh and Michele Kelly), the watch’s primary tool is productive — its Facebook page.
About 350 town residents — roughly a quarter of the town’s population — have friended that page, which may be accessed by invitation only. Many regularly report criminal or suspicious activity around town, Franklin said, and word spreads quickly about potential threats.
“That’s out best way of getting notice out … We put something on there, and it goes out,” Franklin said. “There are people who watch that every day.”
Then word of mouth kicks in about what has happened in Addison — recently there have been cars entered at the Snake Mountain trailhead (a longstanding problem), one home entry, and an attempted break-in at the West Addison General Store, for example.
“The phone starts ringing or they email each other,” Franklin said.
Of course that level of illegal activity, coincidentally or not, is far from what it was before Ritchie, 38, was arrested on July 31, 2013, and ultimately charged in connection with what Vermont State Police allege are at least 52 home break-ins, many in Addison.
Ritchie, who has prior felony convictions, has been held since without bail and his court case, including 10 counts, continues (see related story here).
“Activity since Ritchie was arrested has dropped to about nothing,” Franklin said.
As well as keeping the watch alive, Addison residents have also followed Ritchie’s case closely and attended court dates faithfully — about 20 showed up at a Monday hearing on a proposed plea deal.
Franklin said the town dealt with “a fear factor” because of the many daylight burglaries committed before his arrest, and want to make sure judges handling the case understand how victims feel and to understand that a message should be sent to other criminals.
“That’s why we’re so adamant,” Franklin said. “He needs to pay for everything.”
She said State’s Attorney David Fenster has told them their presence matters.
“’You folks being here really does make a difference,’ he said,” Franklin said. “Sometimes we’ve packed the courtroom.”
Back when they founded the Addison Community Watch, organizers also said they were concerned that it was only a matter of time before their town became a target again, and they hope to maintain their organization into the future.
“The watch is still in place,” Franklin said. “Our Facebook page is still in place.”
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