NORTH TONAWANDA –What are COPs? When the letters are capitalized, it doesn’t refer to the men and women in patrol cars but to a citizen watch group called Citizens on Patrol, which is now expanding to include the entire city.
COPS’ mission of cleaning up the city – not just crime, but literally cleaning up – is catching on.
At Oliver Street revitalization meetings, participants had long talked about the need for neighborhood cleanups. One was finally held last week. Second Ward Alderwoman Donna Braun and the Lumber City Development Center were joined by COPS members for the “Hands on Oliver Street” neighborhood cleanup event.
“We started the program about five years ago in the Second Ward,” said Judith Mittiga, secretary for North Tonawanda COPS. “But over the years we were the only neighborhood watch group left in North Tonawanda, so now we are expanding it to the whole city.”
She said the hope is that by including all of the city, more citizens will join and be part of the group.
The group was instrumental in getting Heritage Park cleaned up and made safer for residents.
Soon after the cleanup, the walkway for residents between Lincoln and Oliver streets also got new lighting to make the park safer, with assistance from Braun.
It took three years to complete the lighting, which was based on a proposal that COPS presented to the Common Council and won approval in 2011.
The group had noted that the park was dangerous at night and Braun echoed their concerns, calling it a safer park after the newly cleaned and lit park was unveiled last month. Braun also thanked the group for its efforts to make it happen.
“We had been trying to get the lights up for a few years and Donna Braun was wonderful dealing with the electric company,” Mittiga said.
She said they also are working on getting lights for all the poles in North Tonawanda.
“There are a lot of lights out in North Tonawanda and we pay for those even when they are not working,” she said. “Lights in front of your house are a deterrent (for criminal activity).”
Mittiga said when the watch group is made aware of a problem, COPS President Steve Ash works with National Grid, often getting new lights up and working within a week.
She said there have been a lot of car break-ins in North Tonawanda.
“We are hoping that we can get neighbors out there watching and, hopefully, with the lights fixed, it will be even more of a deterrent,” she said.
“We are also trying to get things cleaned up.”
Mittiga said North Tonawanda is “one of the safest cities,” so at the recent National Night Out to clean up the streets no one showed up. She said COPS doesn’t want people to be totally complacent about crime and its potential, saying “There’s always crime in every city.”
“You want to live in a nice neighborhood. You don’t want garbage around,” she said. “We are also trying to start a program so that if seniors need help they can give us a call, like help with their snow shoveling or a cleanup around their house.”
She said they also are trying to stop kids from walking in the streets and are working with the schools on this.
Mittiga said neighborhood watches also are a great way to meet your neighbors.
“When we are out there cleaning, come out and join us. If you can walk around your neighborhood, you can get to know your neighbor,” she said.
“I joined two years ago because I like knowing what’s going on in my neighborhood.”
The organization would like more city residents to become members and express their concerns about their neighborhoods.
The group meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be held Oct. 8 in Redeemer Lutheran Church, 265 Falconer St. The locations for the November and December meetings are still being worked out.
The group’s website is www.ntcitizensonpatrol.org.