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Neighborhood watch of Hillside Park has begun

Recorder/Paul Franz
People cutting through Hillside Park utilizing gap in fence.

Recorder/Paul Franz People cutting through Hillside Park utilizing gap in fence.

GREENFIELD — A group of residents who live in the Hillside Park neighborhood have been trained by Greenfield police to report crimes and suspicious activities as the rest of the town heads back to the park this spring.

The idea of forming the neighborhood watch came about late last summer when a couple of Hillside Park’s neighbors complained to the town’s police and Public Safety Commission about illegal activities going on in the park, including drug deals and destruction of park benches and tables.

The neighbors who originally complained could not be reached for comment this week, but Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh said the training is complete and police and residents are ready for people to begin using the park.

“This is my first spring here, but I understand that we don’t have a lot of problems in Hillside Park during the winter,” said Haigh. “We’ve met with the citizens in that area and have discussed their concerns.”

Haigh said the department’s full-time downtown officer Jason Haskins, who trained the neighborhood watch participants, will be patrolling the park daily. Haskins spends his entire shift in the downtown area.

“We need residents in the Hillside Park area, or anywhere else in town, to be vigilant about contacting us with any suspicious activities,” said Haigh. “The residents over by Hillside have been trained to take detailed notes for us. Police are going to take a more active approach concerning that park and other areas.”

Haigh said this is the first “official” neighborhood watch in Greenfield, meaning participants have been trained by police, but he doesn’t expect it to be the last.

He said this first one is a “pilot program,” which he and others hope grows so that other parks and areas of town are watched more closely.

“What we don’t want is people doing our job,” said Haigh.

He said if criminals and those disturbing the peace learn that neighbors and police are watching, it will be a deterrent.

“But, we don’t want anyone on the neighborhood watch to approach someone doing something suspicious,” he said. “They have been trained to call us and stay away from trouble.”

Haigh said when all Greenfield residents become more cognizant about what’s going on around them and begin calling police immediately, it’ll be a huge help.

Gary Longley, chairman of the town’s Public Safety Commission, said captains of the neighborhood watch will be chosen at different locations around Hillside Park and they will take charge of the efforts in each of those areas.

The community has come up with other ideas for Hillside Park, including planting community gardens there and holding public events like concerts and movies to keep the park in use much of the time.

Some residents have suggested that the town install better lighting in and around the park, while others have said cameras should be installed.

The park was renovated a couple of years ago. The town used a $360,000 grant to install a new playground and basketball court.

Residents of the Hillside Park neighborhood and beyond said last fall that they are ready to take back their park, however they might have to go about it.

For more information about the neighborhood watch, visit “Hillside Neighborhood Watch” on Facebook.

Spring cleanup

One of the recent posts on its Facebook page said the watch group is gearing up for it annual spring park cleanup, which will be May 10.

Anyone interested in becoming a captain should email: precinct8@gmail.com.

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