City without police force organizes neighborhood watch

Officer Orlando Gonzales from the Harlingen Police Department speaks to Lyford residents about creating a neighborhood watch. Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star

LYFORD — When Rodolfo Reyna raised his hand to ask when a police department would come back to his town, there was no concrete answer.

“It is bad to not have one, but even with cops there will be robbers,” he said.

Reyna has reasons to be concerned.

He has been robbed twice, once last month and once last year, which prompted him to attend the first educational neighborhood watch meeting.

City leaders, law enforcement officers and residents met Thursday evening at the Broadway Event Center to learn the first steps to create a neighborhood watch.

The meeting was organized by Constable Ben Vera along with the Willacy County Sherriff’s Department.

With the city still operating without a police department, the sheriff’s department continues to patrol the streets, according to authorities.

However, residents as well as law enforcement officials said starting a neighborhood watch would be a great help.

“I wanted to see who I can contact whenever something happens. The meeting is good for the community. People need to speak out,” Reyna said, adding he considers security cameras to be great help.

In attendance were Mayor Wally Solis and City Commissioner Rick Salinas, who said he often calls the sheriff’s department whenever he witnesses suspicious activities.

Raymondville and Harlingen Police, officials with the Cameron and Willacy County District Attorney’s Office and Willacy County Crime Stoppers were present to explain the different ways residents can communicate with authorities.

Officer Orlando Gonzalez from the Harlingen Police Department answered questions and provided guidelines to start a neighborhood watch.

“You can start by creating one in your street. The houses you are able to see are the ones you can guard,” Gonzalez said.

“This does not mean you should take matters into your own hands, but if you see anything suspicious make a phone call,” he said.

Gonzalez and the Willacy County Crime Stoppers reminded residents their calls are anonymous and their identity won’t be revealed.

Michelle Rodriguez said she decided to attend the meeting to get more information and know how to get the program started.

“We kind of do it now, anyways, but this way we can be more official,” she said.

“The meeting was very informative and got the wheels going, but I think once we are official and people actually know it is active, I think it will deter more crime,” Rodriguez said.

Vera said they will continue to set up more meetings as people express  interest.

Sebastian will be having its first meeting Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Sebastian Volunteer Fire Department.