Tift County officials disappointed by watch group turnout
Out of more than 40,000 people living in Tift County, only two residents showed up to the first neighborhood watch meeting on Monday evening, alarming organizers who say community involvement is everything.
"You get the phone calls as a commissioner saying 'What can you do?' My question this evening would have been what are we going to do? But we didn't have the support of the community," said county commissioner Melissa Chevers.
The women who sat through the presentation say they don't regret coming out, but they understand they're not enough to change the community.
"I feel good about it. I wish it would have been more and maybe next time it will be, but I felt it was necessary for me to be here," said Tift County resident Hazel Hughes.
With a growing crime rate, organizers are asking for each neighborhood to have a block captain and co-captain to manage their area and communicate with police. Officials say there are only 7 deputies per 12 hour shift who are responsible for 268 square miles, so they can't be everywhere at once.
"The crime is not just in one area, it's all over the county so it's important that we get these citizens to be our eyes and ears," said Captain Dennis Reese with the Tift County Sheriff's Office.
Though they can't understand why there's a lack of interest in keeping the streets safe, those involved say they believe it has to do with a false sense of security.
"Sometimes I think they don't think it would happen to them, but it will eventually. If we don't do something in Tifton, it will happen," said Miley Hughes, who lives on the south side of town.
Despite the weak turnout, organizers say they won't give up and are giving residents a second chance to get involved during a second meeting Thursday evening.