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Sun, April 18

Red Lake resident seeks members for neighborhood watch group

Annie Shumway and her dog keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in her neighborhood last week. Shumway recently organized a neighborhood watch group in the Red Lake and Junipine areas. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Annie Shumway and her dog keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in her neighborhood last week. Shumway recently organized a neighborhood watch group in the Red Lake and Junipine areas. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Residents of the Red Lake and Junipine areas are coming together to reduce crime and help one another through a new neighborhood watch group.

The group started late last year and so far about 15 people are involved. Members typically meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the High Country Rescue Fire Station.

Resident and former law enforcement officer Annie Shumway came up with the idea. After working with several neighborhood watch groups as part of her job in the Phoenix area, she noticed a group was lacking when she moved to the Red Lake neighborhood.

"I think that citizens think that law enforcement is always going to be there, especially in the city, because you're there within two to five minutes of a call," she said. "That's not going to happen out here. Citizens need to be prepared for anything that could come their way or keep an eye on your neighbor."

During neighborhood watch meetings, members discuss a variety of concerns such as loose pets and livestock, suspicious activity and being prepared for emergency situations.

"One of my neighbors told me when I first moved here, she said, 'I'm scared to death of fire,'" Shumway recalled. "And I'm from Phoenix, and it doesn't even cross my mind. So one of the things I talked about when we first started the meetings was do you have extra food in the house? What if there's a fire? What if there's a snowstorm? Do you have extra water?"

Neighborhood watch groups are especially beneficial in rural areas like the neighborhoods off of Highway 64, Shumway said.

"A lot of the houses are on acre lots," she said. "Some of us have 10 acres. So we're all spread around and our neighbors are not that close, so if there's any type of an emergency, it could take anywhere from 25 minutes to two hours for any kind of help, whether it's EMT, fire, law enforcement, whatever."

Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gerry Blair said the county has had neighborhood watch groups for about nine years. He agreed that it's helpful for neighbors to look out for each other in more isolated communities.

"We have a minimum amount of deputies and we do as much preventative patrol as we can, but we probably don't get out there as much as we'd like to get out there," he said. "So it's good that neighbors are helping their other neighbors and they're looking for suspicious activity. A lot of times some of those neighborhoods are seasonal, so those are prime targets for opportunistic criminals."

Blair said neighborhood watch groups typically start by discussing the most prevalent type of crime the area sees. Then community members and law enforcement can start working on ways to attack the problem. However, the group isn't just about reducing crime.

"It's about uniting the neighborhood," Blair said. "At one point the neighborhood watch or block watch used to just be neighbors looking out for neighbors and neighbors being additional eyes and ears for law enforcement. But it's come to the point now where our neighborhood watch is just any concern a neighborhood has that might somehow adversely affect the quality of life within that neighborhood."

Shumway said the meetings are also a good way for people to get to know their neighbors so they can help each out in other ways as well, like if someone is sick or runs out of firewood.

"The people that are out here too are really friendly and they're willing to help," she said.

More information about the neighborhood watch group is available from Shumway at (928) 635-0111.

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