The Phoenixville Town Watch held its “National Night Out” event on Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the GraceCrossing Community Church at the corner of Church and Gay Streets in downtown Phoenixville. The event, which takes place annually by town watches across the county on the first Tuesday of August, promotes awareness of local anti-crime efforts and strengthens goodwill among neighbors in the borough.
The Town Watch and their GraceCrossing hosts were joined by representatives from the Phoenixville Police Department, Phoenixville Fire Department, Friendship Dive and Rescue and the Chester County Sherriff’s Department in welcoming the people of Phoenixville to take part in festivities that included a live band, food, and arts and crafts projects for kids.
The Phoenixville Town Watch is an all-volunteer group established to make Phoenixville a safer place through collaboration between borough residents, business owners, and borough police and codes officials.
“National Night Out is about building neighbor camaraderie, it about people meeting their neighbors and local law enforcement and emergency services,” said Ginger Murphy, a Phoenixville Town Watch volunteer. “You normally do not get to meet those folks under the best of circumstances. Plus, the kids can do things like see a police car, climb on a fire engine and get a fire hat.”
Mike Kuznar is a Phoenixville Town Watch volunteer and the Republican candidate for Phoenixville Borough’s Middle Ward. He said that Phoenixville Town Watch is not about spying on your neighbor or calling 9-11 every time you hear a noise, but rather people looking out for one another.
“’If you see something, say something’ is pretty much our motto. You frequently hear about a news story where (a crime) was solved because of an anonymous tip, and that is why we encourage people to get involved. When you see something that’s wrong, it is okay to say something about it… …you should say something about it.”
He added that he was very impressed with the National Night Out turnout. Murphy shared his enthusiasm.
“This (turnout) is just what we were hoping for. We are very excited. We want people to come out and meet each other and have a nice night,” she said.
Phoenixville Town Watch currently has just under 10 regular volunteer members, and they meet the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. (meetings usually run until 8:30) at GraceCrossing Community Church.
“The Town Watch meets monthly in our church and we do everything we can to support them,” said GraceCrossing Pastor Brent Miller. “We have people in the church who are connected to the Town Watch. We are all a part of the same community, so we are here for them and they are here for us.”
“Our meetings are open and we are constantly encouraging our neighbors to come participate,” said Murphy. “To get involved, you just need to be a concerned community member (with) a vested interest in making this community a safer place, whether you are a resident or a business owner.”
A major factor to the effectiveness of Phoenixville Town Watch is that it works in conjunction with local law enforcement and the borough’s codes office, including special meetings between the entities.
“We call them our Cops and Codes meetings,” Murphy said. “They have agreed to meet with us as part of our cooperative effort. They see Town Watch as an important link to the community.”
Ken Zimmerman is the owner and operator of Heidi Sue Variety, and has been a member of the Phoenixville Town Watch for almost three years. He said he became a member because it “just makes sense” for a local business to get involved.
“Belonging (to Phoenixville Town Watch) is of great interest to people who are doing business in the borough because this community is their whole life. People may think that they‘re too busy, but being a part of (organizations) like this are important to stop problems from growing.”
Phoenixville Police Chief William Mossman, who spoke with the Phoenix Reporter & Item over the phone, about how everyone benefits from what the Town Watch does and represents.
“The partnership between Town Watch and the police department is a good thing for the people in the community and for us as a department. The borough has a population of over 17,000 and we never have more than five officers working at one time. We do as good of a job as we can do, but we need the community to be involved because they have their eyes open all of the time. We meet regularly with Phoenixville Town Watch and we get a lot of information from them which helps better the community.”
Phoenixville Town Watch member Lynn Cross said belonging to the organization allows members to get information on, and input into, the community.
“For me, being a member is part of being good neighbor. The Town Watch is a place to talk and to ask questions. I joined because I want the kids to have a safe place to play.”
“The town watch is great and we are glad that they invited us,” said Friendship Dive and Rescue Deputy 77 Scott Hamrick, who, along with other members of the Dive and rescue, helped the kids in attendance try on diving gear for fun. “The advantages of nights like tonight are that people get to learn about us and what we do, and we also get to learn about them. You can only rely on paid (services) so much, so you need volunteers. You need a community made up of everyone – paid professionals, volunteer services, and the businesses that provide funding to support others.”
Sheriff’s Deputies John Heiser and Collin Meisenhelter, who were in attendance on behalf of Chester County Sheriff Carolyn ‘Bunny’ Welsh, also spoke to the importance of the Phoenixville Town Watch and National Night Out.
“The town watch is a great asset because having more eyes means having more help to stop crime,” said Heiser, who was present with his partner Sabre, a German Shepherd trained in finding explosives and tracking. “They are almost like an undercover officer within the community.”
“Opportunities like tonight – to be out here and getting to meet with everyone – they are perfect for community outreach,” said Meisenhelter. “We get to talk about how we serve the county and we also get to tell people how thankful we are to have the community’s support.”
“We are overwhelmed by the support of law enforcement, the fire department and the dive and rescue team,” said Town Watch member Jan Swarr. “They came out to show their presence and presence is everything. This is such a positive turnout and it’s just wonderful. It’s things like this that give an incredible shot in the arm to Phoenixville.”
Also present were 2013 Dogwood Queen Rachel Miller and 2012 Dogwood Queen Carrie Hytha.
“This is my first time out coming to this event and I and I like how it brings different aspects of the community together,” said Miller. “I am definitely going to be out here again next year.”
“This is also the first time for me,” Hytha added. “It is good to see people of all ages come together like this. Everyone is having a good time and has found something fun to do.”
To find out more about Phoenixville Town Watch, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PvilleTownWatch