Greene County Sheriff’s Office revamps community watch program

GREENEVILLE (WJHL) – The Greene County Sheriff’s Office launched a new community watch program Thursday afternoon that aims to help deter crime.

It’s a program they’ve had in the past but after a year of planning, the revitalized program has a new look.

It’s all getting started in the St. James community of the county, that’s right near the Cocke County border.

Working with the sheriff’s office over the past year the St. James community raised nearly $1,000 to order new neighborhood crime watch signs. The signs are strategically placed on roads coming into the neighborhood in a partnership that hopes to make the county a safer place.

Together they posted 17 neighborhood crime watch signs across the community.

“Took about a year to get organized and today it’s become a reality,” Sheriff Pat Hankins said.

Hankins said the program is starting in St. James because of its location.

“St. James borders Cocke County and they are like the farthest point away from the office,” Hankins said.

Community watch member Brenda Olafsen is hoping the news signs can help, “we’ve had problems with drugs and home thefts,” Olafsen said.

Hankins said drugs account for around 90% of their calls and he’s hoping these signs can help fight that.

The signs include contact information for law enforcement, including a new crime tip line for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, 423-972-7000.

“You can be anonymous, you can text it to us, whatever you feel comfortable with. The information you give us will be confidential,” Hankins said.

Although the signs are new, Sheriff Hankins said it’s about more than that.

“It wouldn’t do us a bit of good just to go around and put up new signs because that doesn’t do anything, the involvement of the community is where it’s at,”

The sheriff’s office will also be working with citizens through training courses on how to better describe people that look suspicious, how to spot suspicious activity, to talk about community concerns and more.

Hankins said Baileyton is next on the list as his office works to grow the new community watch program across the county.

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