Skepticism surrounds new Columbus crime watch group for ‘hands-on’ tactics

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COLUMBUS, Ind (March 25, 2016)--The reemergence of a crime watch group in Columbus is being met with heavy resistance.

Currently, Columbus has 14 crime watch groups that are recognized by police. The two biggest are near downtown.

The Historic Downtown Neighborhood Alliance and Ninth Street area neighborhood watch are affiliated with The Columbus Police Department and are sponsored by the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center.

"Our duty as a group is to watch out for each other, promote neighborhood cohesion and report suspicious activity so the police can follow up," said Lisa Pein of the Ninth Street Area Watch.

"We watch out for each other as much as we can," said Sheryl Nulph of The Historic Downtown Neighborhood Alliance.

Christopher Rutan is the leader behind the new group-- Ninth Street Park Neighborhood Watch.

"What our main goal is to provide a quality of life for every single resident," said Rutan.

While all three groups have the same goal of keeping Columbus safe, they don't all share the same approach.

"We chose the path that the police suggested and that's if you see something say something," said Nulph.

"We want to have a hands on approach. We like to go out in the night around 9:30 and we will walk up and down the streets to make sure no criminal activity is going on," said Rutan.

Rutan and his group believes walking the streets will curb public drug use and deter violent crime, however, the other two crime watch groups aren't buying it.

"Anybody is welcome to have any kind of group they want. It just needs to be done under the guidance of police. We aren't vigilantes," said Nulph.

"They are wanting to conduct foot patrols and vehicle patrols and while it's not illegal it has the propensity to put themselves in harms way," said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department.

"We aren't backing down. We have worked too hard and we will succeed," said Rutan.

The Ninth Street Park neighborhood watch group will meet with the Mayor of Columbus during a public meeting on Monday. Rutan says he's tried reaching out to the other crime watch groups but he has not been received well.

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