Watch meeting highlights positive solutions to problems

The latest Amsterdam Neighborhood Watch meeting was held yesterday at the St. Stanislaus Church meeting hall. Moderated by Georgia O’Connor, the meeting featured TJ Czeski and John Sumpter from the Wishful Thinking Foundation, who gave an overview of their group’s accomplishments over the last two years, and their plans to see a recreation center built in Amsterdam.

Before the Wishful Thinking portion, Georgia began the meeting by saying that one of the reasons they meet is to come forward with problems, the other is to come up with solutions. “This isn’t just a grief session, where we air all of our grievances, it’s to come up with solutions. It’s us saying there’s a problem in our neighborhoods, and what are we going to do to fix it,” she said. She went on to say that she wants us to be aware of groups in our community that are doing good work, and that one such group is Wishful Thinking, whom she introduced.

Czeski spoke first, explaining their founding after the tragic shootings of 2012 and chronicled their successes with youth basketball leagues and the current Homework Club program held at the Creative Connections Arts Center which gives students after school help with their homework. They explained how their programs give kids an alternative to crime and street life which is an important step toward civic responsibility.

John Sumpter said “In the cleanup [this past Saturday] we had eighty kids picking up trash. I don’t know if it’s something that we’ve done, either basketball or tutoring, they just know we care. The more they care, the more they understand, the more they respect.”

Sumpter went on to state that “a community recreation center is our number one priority. It may not happen soon, but maybe down the line. So if we can strive for that as a community, than, I think, we’ve accomplished something together.”

Later, O’Connor asked what each person could do to increase interest in the Neighborhood Watch, to which a gentleman in the audience asked if Georgia networked with other groups.

“I do. There are other groups who like to stay small…and they are having some of the same issues – three or five or ten people coming to meetings, as well. This is the largest Neighborhood Watch meeting that goes on in the city, but there are areas that I don’t see represented much, so how do we reach out to them,” she said. “We have a pretty good Neighborhood Watch program. Not in all areas but a good core group of volunteers, like all of you who come to the meetings and keep a watch on each other. I think that’s really making a difference.”

On what being involved with Neighborhood Watch meant, O’Connor said, “basically, it’s a commitment to watch out for one another. It means being a good neighbor. If you see someone suspicious in your neighborhood, if you see someone of concern, you make a phone call to the Police Department and say ‘I see someone suspicious and my neighbor isn’t home.’”

She talked a little of a free online service called Nixle, where you can sign up for emails or text messages from the Amsterdam Police Department. It will alert you to anything that concerns public safety, such as police alerts or even snow emergencies.

Police Chief Culick and Sgt. Nethaway discussed an upcoming “Breakout” party in the 4th Ward area, by a local motorcycle club this weekend.

“We’ve never had a motorcycle club in the city before. An organized club that wants to have a breakout party. They asked for a street permit to block off the street. That was denied, so they’re going to do something on private property,” said Culick.

He went on to say, “I met with the gentleman who wants to put this on…I don’t anticipate any problems, but we’ll be there just in case there is…We met with the State Police, the crime intelligence unit, and there’s never been a problem with [these] breakout parties. They don’t want any trouble.”

One resident said that she had read about the biker groups and how they were professionals like doctors and lawyers. According to Culick, many in the group do have professional jobs and he thought it was unlikely there would be any problems.

“I just wanted to give everybody the heads up,” he said.

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.