Soulsville establishes neighborhood watch group

On a rain-soaked March evening at the J.E. Walker House, the Soulsville USA neighborhood officially entered the world of community watch groups when it received acceptance from the Memphis Police Department’s Crump Station.
It might’ve been dreary outside but the small gathering inside was excited for the official start of the Soulsville Safe Haven Watch Group. The idea for the group came out of a survey of Soulsville USA residents who identified crime prevention as one of their biggest concerns.
Carolyn Cleveland and Jewell Pettigrew have helped organize the group. They both attended a Memphis Police Department Citizens Police Academy in the fall, one of the requirements to form a watch group.
Officer Rachael Wilkins, a neighborhood watch coordinator at the Memphis Police Department’s Crump Station, shared crime statistics for the greater neighborhood for the first couple of months of the year. Of the 38 incidents reported from Jan. 1 through March 8, there was a range that included aggravated assault, burglary of a business, residential burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, robbery of an individual, theft of motor vehicle and drug/narcotic violations, which accounted for 10 of the incidents.
Of the 38, 10 were residences burglarized, “the highest issue the neighborhood is working with,” Wilkins said. The Soulsville watch group was reminded of a number of safety tips to protect themselves and property, some of which goes beyond locking doors at all times.
“You need to know the best time to go jogging probably isn’t 11 at night,” Wilkins said.
Melanie Dorsey, Crump Station neighborhood watch coordinator with Wilkins, added that “a nosey neighbor is a good neighbor. We like nosy neighbors.”
More than being a watch group of “nosy neighbors” that looks out for one another, the Soulsville Safe Haven Watch Group has expectations to meet. It must send someone to the Memphis Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy. The association was encouraged to create a method of communication, such as the Nextdoor website. And attending monthly neighborhood watch meetings with other communities at the Crump Station gives the Soulsville USA residents a way to stay connected to the department as well as nearby communities.
And the community is encouraged to participate in events at the Crump Station.
“The past and current department directors believe in community involvement,” Dorsey said. “We want the community to get to know the officers who patrol the area and vice versa.”
Dorsey encouraged neighborhood residents to sign up for cyber watch, the crime tracking tool through the department’s website, When an address is entered, cyber watch sends a report for the area around that location, including vandalism, robberies and thefts.
Cleveland wants to “light up Soulsville” with assistance from Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division. A sort of lease lighting program saw the utility install a light on a pole in Cleveland’s back yard.
“A well-lit environment is a safer one,” she said. “Every time they tear down a house there is a black hole. I have a vacant lot next to me but I keep it up. When I came home it’s dark and I’m running to get in the door. But now it’s lit up. I love it.”
Soulsville USA Site Director Rebecca Matlock Hutchinson said the hope is to secure funds that can help offset the $54 installation cost of the lights so more properties in the neighborhood can take advantage of the MLGW program.
“There are places all around that need to be lit up,” Pettigrew said. “It’s a domino effect. People want to get involved when they see you care about their needs.”

Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler. 
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