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Group holds second neighborhood crime watch meeting

By Will Whaley

The Selma Times-Journal

A group of concerned old town citizens gathered Sunday night to talk about one thing: the safety of their community.

The meeting, organized by Diana DiMaggio, discussed security camera options and ways to make their homes and themselves less of a “hard target.”

Wanda Williams, a resident of old town for almost 23 years, talked about how her house was robbed on Wednesday, May 30.

“I am normally at home all the time,” she said. “My daughter had graduated from Selma High School, my oldest child who lives in Tennessee, came and got her for the summer. That is what is so strange because usually my daughter and I are there.”

Williams said that she had family members that were 95-years-old that lived nearby her, and they had asked her to stay the night with them.

“My uncle has dementia, and I told my aunt and uncle I would go spend the night with them,” she said. “I went to bible study that night, came home, grabbed my bag and got in my vehicle around 8:15 p.m.

“I came home the next morning, and I heard my alarm clock was going off,” she said. “I opened up the door, and I see wires hanging throughout the house. I didn’t know if anybody was in the house or not. All of a sudden just because my car wasn’t there, they decided to hit my house. There are people who are watching us, and they know our habits, and they have known my habits for years obviously for them to just hit my house.

“They came in and took all my electronics,” she said. “They did not trash my house. They just went in room to room, and took all the electronics. They even took my remotes for the televisions. It was unbelievable.”

Two days later, she visited the same aunt and when she returned to her home, there was a truck pulled up to her back door.

“Come to find out, my next-door neighbor, who I haven’t met so you need to know who your neighbors are, had a friend that pulled the truck up to my yard instead of parking on their own property. I thought that was kind of weird. It was pulled up to the door that got kicked in.

“I was not OK for the first few days, but now I’m OK. It really scared me and I asked why this truck was in my yard. For somebody to break into my home is pretty terrifying. You feel invaded. I thank God that my daughter was not there. They could have kicked the door in on her, and that is what’s dangerous.

“I am one of the first ones to call the police when I see strange things, so stay safe, and be aware of your surroundings because they are watching you,” Williams said. “I applaud the police. I know they have a hard, tough job, and I personally think they are doing the best they can. That is why I think it is important to have these groups to help them out as well because they can’t do it on their own.

“A lot of times people breaking in are people we know,” Williams said.

“It is events like this which is why we started organizing groups like this,” she said. “I have not been involved with Neighborhood Watch before. A week ago I had someone come out to install ADT systems, and the man installing the equipment said he remembered how the neighborhood used to be.

“This is the first time I have ever been to Selma,” DiMaggio said. “I didn’t grow up here, but I know many people have. A lot of people that same memory, and that is part of our more strategical part of the group is how to make Old Town safe again? That should be our motto. We want to organize and see if we can help achieve that goal.”

DiMaggio presented a map of the Old Town community, and organized each block with a block captain.

“Our short term strategic goal is to get all of our block captains in place so that everybody does know their neighbors,” said DiMaggio. “Phone trees should be very easy to set up. I am not the most technical person, but that is just one way we want to get organized.”

DiMaggio also talked about getting the city officials involved as well.

“That is their number one job to keep us safe, and it is not acceptable to have two women one a block away and another across the street in the last two and a half months to be robbed at gunpoint,” she said. “That is just not acceptable and it is not safe. So the question is how do we protect each other?”

DiMaggio said that security cameras would be a big help with safety.

Dr. Brendon Wyatt presented research he had done on different surveillance cameras and security systems.

“They all have pros and cons,” said Wyatt. “But I recommend getting whatever you can afford because we will all have to use our own money for these purchases.”

Wyatt said like the block captains, that the type of camera systems, where they would be installed and how many should be a well-defined objective for everyone in the neighborhood watch group.

“This has gone too far,” said DiMaggio. “Nobody will want to live or stay here. We also talked about personal safety and training especially for us as women.”