BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Over some hot dogs and beverages, about a dozen Fort Madison residents gathered in Old Settler’s Park to talk crime and neighborhood watch groups.
Representatives from the 34th Place, Lincoln, and Dry Creek Neighborhood Watch groups spoke to the group about getting a neighborhood watch started in their area of the town.
Larry Lee Stewart, of the Lincoln group, gave a detailed description of criminal activity in the area, including small crimes like property damage and larcenies to violent crimes.
His violent crime information comes from a Federal Bureau of Investigation database and outlined where in the community there are hot spots of crime.
Steve Howard, with the 34th Place group, has helped get the other two groups. He told a story about a vehicle that was moving through the area a couple years ago the group brought to the attention of authorities who were able to catch the man and put him in jail on multiple counts.
“This thing works,” Howard told the group.
He said the data compiled by Stewart was eye-opening.
“These charts just blow you away,” Howard said.
Stewart said he there were too many things going on today.
“We just had too many events going on today and it just sucked people away from here,” Stewart said.
“We had eight or nine people that weren’t from the watch, but the rest were from the groups. But we did have a good conversation with one person who’s very interested in getting a group started in her neighborhood, so that makes it all worth it.”
Stewart said the numbers over the past six years show a shift in crime in the city to several concentrated areas. One near 8th and G. Smith said Fort Madison is the No. 1 city in the state for stolen bicycles. He also said 90 percent of all stolen motor vehicles in Fort Madison during the same time have been taken because the keys were left in the vehicle.
Stewart said that six guns were taken from the motor vehicles taken and only three have been recovered. Two of those were taken by juveniles.
Stewart said his non-violent crime statistics were compiled from Pen City Current’s For the Record section, which is information received daily from Fort Madison Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Department. He said he left out shoplifting charges.
The groups have been holding open meetings and now community meetings to help educate residents in other neighborhoods on creating and sustaining there own watch groups.
Anyone interested in more information on how to get the watch groups started can visit them on Facebook at (34th Place) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1563343443950722/, (Lincoln) https://www.facebook.com/groups/742909882536500/, (Dry Creek) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1574131209554770/