Guernsey neighborhood watch, a.k.a. Platte River Posse, gains steam

Lisa Phelps
Posted 7/2/24

GUERNSEY – Plans are moving forward for the Platte River Posse as members of the community join together to form a type of neighborhood watch program in the Guernsey and Hartville area. At a …

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Guernsey neighborhood watch, a.k.a. Platte River Posse, gains steam


GUERNSEY – Plans are moving forward for the Platte River Posse as members of the community join together to form a type of neighborhood watch program in the Guernsey and Hartville area. At a meeting last week attended by over 20 people, it was agreed to proceed with the name and logo, Platte River Posse, to represent the group that sprang up after some serious crimes were committed on the streets of Guernsey.
Though prompted by vehicle thefts that were wake-up moments for some members of the town, there were several people at the meeting who said they wanted to be a part of the neighborhood watch program because they have seen criminal behavior escalating in the town. They said they want to help bring the town back into being “what it used to be,” where it was safe to leave your bike on the front lawn and know it would still be there in the morning, drug paraphernalia isn’t being found on the playground, and strangers aren’t trying to break into your yard or your home.
The group is made up of long-time residents, newcomers, and business owners and are seeking to work in cooperation with the Guernsey police and town council.
One organizer, Jeremiah Field said, “[We] are not vigilantes…We observe and report suspicious activity to the police…We want to save the community for our kids.”
There have already been many hours logged for members of the Platte River Posse, whose tasks include getting to know their neighbors, and taking turns being watchful - especially at night.
Guernsey Police Chief Jay Harrison was at the meeting and was supportive of the stance taken by the group. He said the criminal element likes to take advantage of small towns like Guernsey, and while there are additional steps being taken behind the scenes by local law enforcement to reduce crime, citizens are encouraged to contact the police if they see anything suspicious. “That one thing that you may not have thought was important enough to report may have been what is needed to solve a case,” the chief said. “But don’t put yourself in harm’s way.”

He noted, it is important to have detailed descriptions, and emphasized, “I will not violate anybody’s civil rights, but if an individual was a danger to themselves or others, I can take action.”
“We want to get people to know this (the neighborhood watch) is out there,” Shawna Reichert, another organizer, said. “We are working with the town, but this group is not connected to them. This is our own thing: we’re concerned citizens helping protect ourselves.”
In their April 16 meeting, the Guernsey council publicly voiced their support for a community watch program.
“I think it’s a thing that needs to be done, as long as it’s done right,” Councilman Dale Harris said.
Kelly Augustyn, a member of the Platte River Posse and a town councilman, stated the council has shown its support for the group. He shared some experiences he had when he and Fields gathered five truckloads of trash left behind by transients along the river, highlighting another area of concern for the group.
“Transients have been being forced out of bigger cities, and you can see their camps as you float the river…it’s going to get worse in time,” Fields said, adding, “I’ve seen people coming from Torrington and Hartville – walking – but people have a right to travel and go where they please.”
Reichert brought up the very real possibility that someone may end up getting killed with some of the night-time trespassing and thievery that is occurring in the town. “I hate to see someone’s life ruined…I think it’s getting to that point,” she said.
There was further discussion in the meeting, and more people were signed up as “zone captains,” who are a close point of contact for anyone in their zone who do not feel comfortable turning in a report to the police. It was suggested people light up the dark areas of their property, including the alleys, and to lock up their possessions so it’s not so easy for people to steal.
Additionally, posse members were asked to note any streetlights that were not working and report them to the town. Though not at the meeting, Public Works director Mike Fronapfel confirmed any streetlights not working need to be reported to town hall so there is a record of it, and he will issue a work order from those reports.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Platte River Posse can talk to a current member or come to one of the meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23 at the First State Bank conference room.