ATHENS -- A string of break-ins throughout town has reportedly prompted local interest in a neighborhood watch group and a long-time citizen has scheduled an informational meeting to discuss the possibility.
Tom Hutchins told the Reformer the group is in the planning stages right now and more must be done before it can officially form. The informational meeting has been scheduled for Athens Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on June 2. Hutchins said he has spoken to roughly 50 people about the possibility of a neighborhood watch group and hopes interested residents will care enough to stop by the meeting.
"I think it's going to fly," he said. "I think it will be good for the community."
Hutchins said the conversation about a watch group was sparked by a string of break-ins throughout town. According to Vermont State Police Senior Trooper Paul Dean, one of the more recent crimes occurred sometime during the first two weeks of April when alcohol and money were stolen from a Miller Road residence after the perpetrator(s) gained entry to the house by breaking a rear window and then leaving out the front door.
Hutchins, who has lived in Athens for about 35 years and worked for nine years as a deputy in the Windham County Sheriff's Department, said he has done "quite a bit of leg work and research" and got the OK from the Athens Selectboard to pursue the idea of a neighborhood watch group.
He said he believes it likely would consist of night patrols. Neighborhood watch groups have come to the forefront of the American consciousness following the much-publicized fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator in Sanford, Fla., where Martin was visiting. Zimmerman spotted Martin walking home while driving and, though the particulars have divided the nation, Martin was eventually killed by a gunshot wound following a violent encounter.
Hutchins told the Reformer any patrolling members of the Athens neighborhood watch groups would stay unarmed and simply call 911 to report any problems. He said a lot is still unknown and the purpose of the informational meeting is to hammer out some of the finer details.
"Then, we can more or less organize who does what," he said.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.