A rash of recent thefts in the Winchester area has led several concerned citizens to create a neighborhood watch group tentatively dubbed the Randolph County Coalition.

     The first meeting of the group took place Wednesday evening, August 14 at Beeson Park on Winchester’s southside of town.

    Several concerned citizens met with Winchester Police to discuss the recent crimes, the formation of the group, and ways to protect your property, your family and yourself within the boundaries of the law.

    One citizen stated, “I had a couple of bikes stolen from my property. When talking with people, we originally thought it was a small group of maybe four or five people doing this. After a little investigation, we realized that it was a much larger problem than we realized involving as many as 25 to 30 people maybe even more. This lead us to organize this meeting with the Police to discuss the issue.”

    “We believe that these are crimes of opportunity,” states Winchester Police Chief Jonathan Reed. “They will, for example, try a car door and if it is locked move on to the next car,” he continues. “I urge all residents to lock their doors and not leave anything valuable in their vehicles,” he adds. “It is unusual for them to go to the trouble of breaking a window, we’ve only had a couple of broken windows in the last three years,” Reed states.

    “If you see anything suspicious, let us know. If we don’t know about it, we can’t investigate it.” The best way to get someone on the scene quickly, in an emergency, is to call 911. “You will be asked to describe the activity, the individual, and your location,” says Reed.

    “Other numbers to call to report suspicious activities are (765) 584-1721 which is the non-emergency number for the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, (765) 584-1301 will also reach the Sheriff’s Department,” he adds.

     “We are also on Facebook as Winchester Indiana Police.  I have recently added an auto-reply feature to our page to let people know that we’ve received their message. We are also hoping to be more transparent and begin providing the News Gazette with recent arrest reports and the like,” says Reed.

    It is believed that the recent spate of thefts is tied to the drug problem. “People are stealing to fuel their drug habit, be it meth, or opioids, or whatever. They are looking for something that they can sell or trade to get their fix,” states one concerned citizen.

    “I am proud that the town and our community are stepping up to say that we have had enough,” he adds. “There is help available for these people, all they have to do is reach out to someone. They have to want help, the only other ways out of their situation is jail, or death.” He adds,

     “I’ve known many addicts, some have gotten help and remained sober, some refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem and end up in prison, and sadly many have overdosed and died.”

      “If we want to solve this problem, we can’t just look at the quick fix and put them all in jail, we need to address the root of the problem. We need to get as many of these people as we can the help that they need.

     We need to better educate the youth about the dangers and consequences of using and abusing these drugs. We need to let some of these at risk kids know that there is someone who cares about them and wants them to succeed and make something of themselves,” the citizen continues.

    “People need to be aware of the situation, and keep an eye out for anything suspicious,” says Reed. “Lock up valuables, and keep an eye on things for your family, friends, and neighbors,” he continues.

    “The community needs to work together, We don’t need any vigilantes going off half-cocked here. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.  Educate yourselves on the State laws concerning protection of yourself and your property and stay within them,” he adds. “There needs to be communication between the citizens and police for this to work.”

    “The police have done an amazing job these last few weeks,” says the citizen. “We’ve managed to get some of these people off of the streets, but there is still much to be done.” The group’s next meeting will be Wednesday, August 21 at 7:00 PM at the Randolph County Museum at 416 S. Meridian Street in Winchester.