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Church takes ministry into streets by patrolling against crime

Church takes ministry into streets by patrolling against crime

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church takes ministry into streets by patrolling against crime

March 22, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0266}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy Johnson**

TRILBY — The stillness of Trilby's hilly countryside masks a growing problem for the small town.
"There's narcotics crimes, drugs, robberies," said longtime resident Keith Moody.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Department responds to as many calls for service as it can. But now, a small group of neighbors is providing backup. In January, Herb Green, the choir director at Trilby United Methodist Church, formed Trilby's first security patrol.
"Some drug traffic is moving in from adjoining neighborhoods. The main reason we started this is we wanted to keep drugs out of Trilby," Green said.

The patrol unit has 17 volunteer officers. They took a four-hour course at the sheriff's office and passed criminal background checks. They wear badges and ride in makeshift police cruisers. Their newest car is a donation from Marny Walker, a longtime member of Trilby United Methodist Church. After a trip to the body shop, her 1984 Pontiac Bonneville will ride the streets of Trilby, fighting crime.

"We want to make sure people feel safe in their community and they can walk down the street and not be harmed," said the Rev. Juan Marcos Garay, the church pastor. "People worry about their chickens, their cows, their pigs."

The security patrol acts as the eyes and ears of the sheriff's department. Officers respond to a variety of citizen complaints about problems such as prostitution rings, drunk drivers and burglaries.
"We had a 90-year-old woman call and wanted us to stop by. She had somebody looking in her windows," Green said.

Neighbors worry also about a suspected crack house. When a green light shines in the window, it's open for business. 

"That's one of the reasons I'm glad to see a crime watch because it's a big deterrent to keep drugs out of this area," said Scott Nichols, a Trilby resident. "With these guys around, it would be more or less impossible for anybody to set up operation out here. So that's terrific."

The patrol plans to add more officers and patrol cars. Green said he plans to require that all officers attend the Citizens Police Academy. He considers it his divine duty to help keep his community safe.

"You ought to do something to put something back into society without being reimbursed for it."


This article was originally produced for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., and distributed March 18, 2005.

This article relates to the Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Johnson is a freelance writer and producer in Tampa, Fla.