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New Programs call on Citizens to Prevent Crimes
Updated: Friday, February 7 2014, 09:50 PM CST
DuPont and the Story County Sheriff's Office are working to build the first Farm Watch program in our state.
The program works to coordinate rural residents to prevent crime. It's described as a neighborhood watch on a larger scale.
It works by citizens reporting suspicious activities to authorities, especially burglaries which are the most frequent crime in rural Iowa. It also targets violent crimes, auto thefts and vandalism.
"Farm Watch helps reduce opportunities for crime to occur in farming and rural communities," said Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald in a news release. "Essential to this is encouraging people to report suspicious incidents to law enforcement officials as they occur and also share the information with other Farm Watch members. As well as helping to deter crime, this strengthens community spirit with everyone working together to protect their property."
The program is designed to help build close relationships with neighbors and law enforcement.
At one time, farmer Dave Struthers, of Collins, felt safe even when he couldn't be home.
"We used to think we were pretty safe out here in rural Iowa, didn't worry too much about it," said Struthers.
That was until one of Struthers' hog farms was vandalized four years ago, and last summer his house was broken into.
"You feel very vulnerable. First off, you wonder why it happened and what you could have done to prevent it," said Struthers.
Farm Watch programs are already active in California and other states and are continuing to gain popularity.
"It provides rural communities an infrastructure to contact law enforcement if they are noticing either criminal or suspicious activities, said Aaron Woods, a DuPont spokesman.
Dupont is partnering with Story County on the program as it prepares to develop its new $200 million cellulose ethanol plant. The company will also have storage locations for the plant in rural areas in Story, Hardin, Hamilton, Marshall and Boone counties.
"It's definitely necessary, you know, a lot of communities and neighborhoods have neighborhood watch programs and people around there are looking out for suspicious vehicles and we need that out here on the farm," said Struthers.
DuPont and the Story County Sheriff's Office is planning a public meeting on Farm Watch on March 6 at the Gates Memorial Hall in Nevada from 6 to 7:30 p.m.