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The City of Chrisman is taking it’s first steps in making the town safer for its residents. On August 11th, members of the community met with Edgar County Sheriff Candidate Doug Cochran and Scott Foster at the Chrisman Church of the Nazarene.
The Neighborhood Watch Program was started in 1972 by the National Sheriff’s Association. The process is a simple ‘observe and report’ program. “You do not go out and confront folks. You basically see and report. There’s no issues,” Cochran said.
This first meeting was to get the process started and answer any questions that those in attendance may have about the program.
The program is already in operation in Paris and has led to several arrests. Kansas and Chrisman are next on the list to get started. The pair attended a meeting in Hume to get their approval.
“This will be your community watch program,” Doug Cochran said. “It will not be run by Scott (Foster) and myself or by Paris. It’s a community neighborhood watch.”
Once the program has a few meetings, it will then be decided by the community who will take over and coordinate the program. Like Paris, Chrisman will be divided into sectors. With Chrisman being smaller, a total of four sectors would cover town, rather than the twelve in Paris. “We cut them down into pieces and each sector has a Block Captain,” Foster said. “Chrisman will have four main people and will be using the phone tree method.”
Block Captains will have around twenty-five to thirty-five houses in their sector to watch over. Everyone in that sector will have the captain’s contact information to report anything suspicious.
The captain will then call 911 if it’s an emergency or call the business number at the Sheriff’s Department (217-465-4166), depending on the severity of the report.
“The reason for that is if there’s action going on in your portion of town, they don’t want twenty or thirty calls locking up the system,” Cochran said.
With this program being used as an aide to help the local Police Department, Chief Tom Dolan expressed some of the concerns that he had.
“We get calls all the time. The biggest problem is it’s delayed,” Chief Dolan said. “I know this is to speed the process up, but I’m concerned that if people are calling others before us, we’re missing it. If we get this thing running, we want to enforce this to the captains and really everyone because time is crucial. Call us immediately.”
Dolan went on to say that if it’s just a suspicious person that doesn’t look like they’ve done any criminal activity, then a neighborhood watch would be sufficient. Any type of emergency, 911 needs to be contacted.
“If it’s shots fired, active shooter or something like that, 911 of course,” Cochran said. “But if it’s Uncle Joe jumped the fence and is on our property, call the block captain.”
Last week, a call came in to the police department of shots fired in Chrisman. The response time of the on duty officer was three minutes. A deputy was also dispatched to the location due to the unknown of the situation and was there in eleven minutes.
Those interviewed reported that they had heard three or four consecutive shots that differed from fireworks. Though it was reported, the call fell under the ‘unsubstantiated’ category, meaning there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that it was shots from a firearm or something else.
With more people moving into the area, not just Edgar County, but to Chrisman, the police are doing their best to get to know the new residents.
Both Foster and Cochran encouraged those who have a security camera system like Simply Safe, Ring or others to register their camera with the police department in the event they catch something, the police will be able to get into the system and retrieve the footage.
“We’re taking a page out of Champaign’s book,” Cochran said.
The security cameras have helped with crimes in Paris that have taken place. When Wendy’s was broken into, the camera’s allowed for the criminals to be caught. The same situation took place when tires were being slashed.
Recently, a storage unit facility was broken into. Thanks to the cameras, it was discovered the criminals were from Danville. The most important thing about this program is that the State’s Attorney is on board with the program.
“I think we’re going to start getting time from these arrests,” Cochran said.
In January, new trespassing laws and ‘No Bail-No Bond’ goes into effect. This means no custodial arrests on Class B and Class C misdemeanors. Trespassing and disorderly conduct falls into that category.
Police will only be able to issue a ‘Notice to Appear’ ticket. If someone were to trespass in your backyard and set up a tent, law enforcement will not be able to make them leave.
“Edgar County is 624 square miles. We all live here together. I was born and raised here. I had chances to leave, but I didn’t because I love to live here,” Cochran said. “It’s time for us to try to take our county back and this is the first step.”
The next meeting for the Neighborhood Watch will be held on September 22nd at 7:00 p.m. At the Chrisman City Building.