SHAMOKIN - The city's police chief has plans to restart a community crime watch program this spring.

Chief Edward Griffiths said volunteers would be trained, including on how to respond if a crime is witnessed and also on what information they should collect and share with police officers.

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. He estimated the program was begun more than two years ago but "fell by the wayside."

"Now that we're getting more interest, we're going to regroup in the spring," Griffiths said.

The police chief's plans coincide with a city resident's own attempt to rally interest in a crime watch.

Neither Rich Fowler nor Griffiths were aware of each other's intentions when contacted separately Friday.

The planned furlough of two full-time patrolmen and two part-time special officers led Fowler to seek support for a crime watch. He began a Shamokin Crime Watch group on Facebook that on Friday had more than 50 members, including some from neighboring Coal Township. He is hopeful that by spreading the word through various outlets that at least 73 city residents would volunteer - roughly 1 percent of Shamokin's population.

Fowler, 31, a state corrections officer, moved in 2009 from Reading to Shamokin, wanting to get away from crime that had been occurring in that city. He sees some parallels that his new city has taken to his old one: prevalent drug use, blighted properties and out-of-towners arrested locally.

"I think just a basic goal is to get people involved in taking care of their own community," he said.

Fowler envisions a volunteer group much like Griffiths does: talk to neighbors, stay alert for signs of criminal activity, share that information with police, don't behave like a vigilante.

"We're not vigilantes. We're not going to go out there and break up fights or conduct a drug raid on somebody's house. We're not police officers, we don't pretend to be," he said. "We're just normal people seeing things, taking notes, getting good descriptions, being good witnesses."

Fowler had hoped to seek local businesses to provide meeting space to the group and perhaps donate materials to advertise a crime watch. With the Shamokin Police Department supporting a crime watch of its own, he may not have to.

Search "Shamokin Crime Watch" on Facebook or contact Fowler at 570-648-5690 for information on his efforts. For more about the program being restarted by the city police, contact Griffiths at 570-648-5708.

Should a crime watch be established, information on meeting times and venues will be published in The News-Item.