SHAMOKIN - An effort to reduce crime by reporting criminal activity and educating the public on the effects of drug use will be two main goals of a city crime watch that is forming.

Concerned residents met privately Tuesday to discuss what could be done to reduce crime in Shamokin. The group followed up the 90-minute discussion with a meeting Wednesday with Shamokin Police Chief Edward Griffiths, who said he will continue to assist the group after he retires from the department Wednesday.

Both meetings were attended by people of various backgrounds, including a business owner and a former drug user. The first meeting was led by Rich Fowler, a state corrections officer who moved in 2009 from Reading to Shamokin, seeking to get away from crime that had been occurring in that city. Despite the move to escape Reading's high crime rate, he now sees some parallels between the Berks County city and Shamokin.

"I have seen the crime rate go up," Fowler said of Shamokin. "We need to reduce property break-ins and drug usage, but also help the code enforcement office by reporting people's disregard for city ordinances."

Fowler and Griffiths showed interest in restarting a community crime watch following the furlough of two part-time and two full-time police officers in December. Only a part-time officer remains furloughed.

Griffiths estimated the program was begun more than two years ago but "fell by the wayside." He said crime watch signs to be hung in homes and businesses had already been printed and are stored at the police department, and a bank account had already been established. As part of the crime watch, volunteers would be trained, including on how to respond if a crime is witnessed, and also on what information they should collect to share with police officers.

Former police chief's input

At Tuesday's meeting, Ed Grego, former Kulpmont police chief who worked with a borough crime watch group that formed in 1994 and disbanded less than two years later, stressed the group needs support from elected officials and the police department to effectively operate. Grego recommended guidelines that indicate how to report a crime be established. Grego said an integral part of having an active crime watch program is keeping the community interested in it, a notion he said Kulpmont residents failed to maintain.

"Education is key," Grego said. "It's one of your building blocks for this group."

Criminal perspective

Chris Harvey, who admitted to the group to once being a thief and drug user, gave some rare insight to the world of troubled individuals. Harvey, who said he has lived a drug-free lifestyle for 30 months, said the only way to make a difference is to be proactive.

"This town is really low; it's being overtaken by it," Harvey said referencing crime. "To really make an impact, you need to get people willing to take back the community."

The next meeting of the Shamokin Crime Watch will be held 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at the Shamokin Police Department. For more information search "Shamokin Crime Watch" on Facebook or contact Griffiths at 570-648-5708 or Fowler at 570-648-5690.