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Police Seeking More Eyes, Ears

Neighborhood Watch groups are looking for more volunteers to keep their communities safe.

During a press conference two weeks ago, Capt. Maggie A. DeBoard, the Franconia District Station commander, asked Springfield residents to be watchful and vigilant in their neighborhoods after a second elderly woman was killed in her home.

One of the best tools available to them is the Neighborhood Watch program, where residents take turns patrolling their neighborhoods once a month for about an hour, looking for anything that seems suspicious.

While the program has been established in the Crestwood community for over 15 years, the amount of interest in it has grown in the past two weeks, since the death of 72-year-old Marion Newman, said Office Jim Nida, a crime prevention officer at the Franconia District Station.

"Right now, we have 20 block captains who are coordinating the sites around Crestwood," Nida said. "We've never had that before."

A similar response has been seen in the Edsall Park community, where 74-year-old Marion Marshall was killed in August.

ALTHOUGH NO evidence links the two cases, a long list of similarities between Marshall and Newman's deaths have led police to believe one person may have killed them both.

The police have also experienced an increase in residents calling the Crime Prevention office and requesting home security checks, DeBoard said.

"We've had 40 calls for checks since Friday," she said Tuesday afternoon. "We'll have them all completed by the end of next week."

Nida said his office usually receives about five calls a year for a home security check.

The Crestwood community is part of the Springfield Civic Association, which invited both DeBoard and Nida to its Tuesday, Nov. 21 meeting to discuss Neighborhood Watch and community safety.

"Everyone wants a safe community," said Tawny Hammond, president of the association and manager at nearby Lake Accotink Park. "You might not like the way your neighbor keeps his lawn, but the most important thing to most people is the safety of their family."

The Neighborhood Watch program in the northern part of Springfield is among the oldest in the country, and Hammond said it's a good way to unify a community.

Hammond is co-chair of her community's Watch program, along with Christina Manning from Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office. They've told their volunteers to keep doing what they've been doing, looking for vehicles or activities that don't seem right.

"We're ratcheting it up in terms of outreach. We went door to door with fliers on Reservoir Drive," where Newman lived, prior to the Nov. 21 meeting, Hammond said.

Manning said the Neighborhood Watch groups are always looking for more volunteers.

"The police can't be everywhere at once, we need to be their eyes and ears," she said.

AN OFFICER on patrol may see a moving van or something else seemingly ordinary and not think twice, but residents will if something is out of place, Manning said.

DeBoard agreed, adding that she's urging residents to call the police station if they see anything that isn't right.

"It might turn out to be nothing, but sometimes something that seems insignificant can be part of a bigger picture," she said.

Even without taking the two deaths into consideration, Hammond said the holiday season is often a busy time for families and police officers, and extra eyes are always helpful.

"Nothing good can come from the loss of these two women, but if people are spurred to get involved and talk to their neighbors, that's all we can hope for," she said.