Want to help Lower Taxes? Want to learn to be a better observer? Want to help the local community? You are not too old to work with Lower Merion Police
Wynnewood, Lower Merion, PA — The late model nondescript vehicle is parked across the street from a small shopping center that holds a bank and an outdoor ATM. The man at the ATM nervously keeps looking over his shoulder while he seemingly works with the keys to the bank machine. Something just doesn't seem right. Should we call it in asks the man to the women driver? We had better ...
Had this call been received by the Lower Merion Police Department they would know that this information has more potential than the average suspicious man or woman incident, because trained observers made the call. The two people in the car have been trained by the Lower Merion Police Department as observers and are the "extra eyes and ears" of Lower Merion's finest.
They are the Lower Merion Community Watch.
“Our members are sensitive to suspicious activity, and they are trained on how to effectively report suspicious behaviors,” stated Matt Peskin LMCW president. Peskin would know; he started with the organization in 1978 — one year after it began. He's seen first-hand many people become natural observers and get better at reporting details because of the program.
The scenario mentioned above is quite common, and the vehicle's occupants could be a husband and wife, or they could be two concerned citizens that are out patrolling for the Lower Merion Community Watch program. The training that they received was held at the police administration building on Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore. It only took about an hour, and it helps them outside of community watch too.
“It has taught them to be better observers and to have a better feel for what is happening around them,” said Peskin.
According to the Lower Merion Township Police Crime Prevention unit’s website, Lower Merion Community Watch is recognized as one of the finest volunteer mobile crime watch organizations in the nation. The Lower Merion Police crime prevention unit states that LMCW unit has been trained to serve as extra eyes and ears of the department's ongoing crime prevention efforts.
Keen Eyes Combine with Police Training
Since the community watch began in 1977 residents of Lower Merion Township over the age of 18 are eligible to become members and be trained by the Lower Merion Police Department. To date, over 1100 residents have received the training, reported the LMCW, of which 200 or more are still members, and 75 are highly-active members.
The members and officials are lax in one area, however: PR!
They just tirelessly do their work, assisting the police. They do it with little fanfare and are more often than not are just glad to help. They have recorded successful patrols over the years where their training has allowed them to find and report activities where police are needed and in which the police subsequently made arrests.
Many times over the years LMCW Patrols have assisted the local police by making the first call to police. That first call is all important, and the patrollers are specially trained on how to report what they have seen or observed. Using that training when they call they report in such a way as to get and relay descriptions and details that law enforcement officials need to respond faster and more efficiently.
Over the course of its entire history, the LMCW has reported nearly 1600 incidents to police for investigation. They have traveled almost a combined 600,000 miles using their own vehicles — and they have minimal funding from the township. They are almost a self-reliant volunteer force that helps their neighbors stay safe.
Only trained members can patrol, and patrols usually last 2 to 3 hours. Before LMCW members leave for their patrol assignment, which is generally their own neighborhood, they are issued a two-way handheld radio and then they are briefed on recent criminal activity by a police officer.
The radios are used to report suspicious vehicles, persons or activities. The patroller is not allowed to leave their vehicle. The training helps them to remain out of harm's way while still providing valuable information to 1st responders.
A Growing Trend in Lower Merion
The organization is growing in scope. About three years ago Peskin worked with Lower Merion Police Superintendent Michael McGrath, and they developed the Dog Walker Watch Program. That program takes advantage that dog walkers are out at all times of the night and day under fair or poor weather conditions.
Peskin noted that in his experience most dog walkers were armed with cell phones to listen to music or talk to friends and family. He decided to harness the power of this invisible force and turn them into Dog Watchers, not just dog walkers.
To date over 150 township residents have received the training.
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