A Facebook group called Kenai Peninsula Crime, created at the end of July, is getting organized in an effort to decrease crime on the Peninsula.
Five people from the social networking group of more than 2,200 attended a leadership meeting at Tom and Adele Bearup’s Soldotna home on Thursday.
Robert Hughes, who started the group after his son’s bike was stolen as a way to encourage people to watch for stolen property, said he didn’t know the group would grow as much as it has.
Even though the group has members from throughout Alaska and in the Lower 48, the small group on Thursday decided board members should be from the Peninsula. They talked about having representatives from each area, similar to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.
The group discussed its focus and writing a mission statement based on Hughes’ concept of “helping people to help people,” encouraging people to be observant of crime and keeping their neighbors informed. Along with that basic idea as a part of its statement, the group wants to incorporate the goal of “taking criminals off the street” by educating people about working with law enforcement and reporting crimes.
“I want (police and troopers) to work with us, not against us,” Tom Bearup said.
Bearup, who worked in law enforcement for 14 years, talked to the group about educating people about being observant of crime and giving law enforcement information that is useful. People need to know how to give a full suspect and vehicle description. Most people carry a camera phone, he said, so they can take a photo or video to present to police or troopers for evidence. Witnesses also should write down what happened immediately after the crime occurred. People need to let officers do their job and not take on a situation unless it is critical, he said.
Darren Bearup, Tom and Adele’s son who has worked with electronics for 18 years, spoke to the group about alarm systems and security cameras. He said prices vary for security equipment, but “something is better than nothing.” For cameras to be effective, he said, they should be placed in well-lit areas and near a heat source in the winter, if possible. He advised the group not to share the security setup with anyone.
“If you trust your neighbor, have them check on your home when you’re away,” Darren said.
The group talked about knowing your neighbors and others in the group to help one another. Nancy Whiting of Nikiski said she knows all her neighbors, but most of them don’t know one another very well. This group, she said, is “kind of a big neighborhood watch.”
Tom said along with getting citizens involved and working with law enforcement, the group needs to talk to local politicians and make them hear the group’s concerns. He also wants the group to work to make current laws more effective to hold criminals accountable.
“As citizens we need to stand up, and that’s what it’s all about,” Tom said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.