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Dec 03, 2019

Holmdel Neighborhood Watch Program Celebrates 25 Years

By Joanne Colella

Members of the Neighborhood Watch and Holmdel Police Department

Members of the Holmdel Neighborhood Watch Program gathered for their recent meeting on the evening of Oct. 24 at Town Hall, where they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the volunteer program, which promotes a partnership between township police officers and the community to help keep everyone safe.

In 1994, a Holmdel resident went to police headquarters after learning about burglaries that had occurred in her area, asking for a way to improve communication between neighbors and the police department. That planted the seeds for the start of Holmdel’s Neighborhood Watch Program, which has since flourished into more than 80 groups throughout the township. Each group is headed up by a resident captain and co-captain who help disseminate important news, alerts and updates from the police to the households in their respective neighborhoods who sign up for the program. Residents are encouraged to act as the “eyes and ears” of the police department by being more aware of activities around them as they go about their normal routines, and to promptly and confidentially report any unusual activity they may notice to the police.

At the October meeting, longtime Neighborhood Watch Captains were presented with plaques of appreciation to mark their five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years of volunteer service, with everyone invited to enjoy refreshments afterwards that were provided by the police department.

The Holmdel Neighborhood Watch Program was originally established and led for many years by then-Officer John Mioduszewski, who now serves as the Holmdel Police Chief. In more recent years, the program has been headed up with equal enthusiasm by Lieutenant Michael Pigott.

Before the presentation of the service awards, Mioduszewski spoke about the history and the significance of the program, telling those present, “Through your involvement, Neighborhood Watch has helped solve numerous crimes and provided lots of helpful information, thanks to the additional eyes and ears in the community. But just as important as that, it has been our way of getting into the community. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we were able to start our Domestic Violence Response Team. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we got the vast majority of our CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we promoted our Police Youth Academy, which just celebrated its 20th year this past summer, with 1,500 to 2,000 kids having gone through it now. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we put pressure on the Board of Education to finally allow a school resource officer into the schools, which has now morphed into a special officer program where we have armed guards in the schools. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we got Reverse 911 for the community. It was from Neighborhood Watch that we were able to organize a lot of community response efforts, whether it was Superstorm Sandy or Sept. 11, when so many donations were collected for families and communities that were in need.”

The chief went on to explain the attention that the Holmdel Neighborhood Watch has gotten over the course of the past 25 years, earning the respect of many.

“I’ve had many conversations over the years with other police chiefs and a lot of elected officials who would ask, ‘How did you guys do it and can you show us how?’ And really how we did it was just by making friends. People were nice, we were nice, we had a conversation, and we built relationships. Back in the days when we first started, we had a phone chain that probably made the group a little tighter. Some of the Neighborhood Watch captains were actually against us getting Reverse 911 because of that, but it was inevitable.”

Mioduszewski also acknowledged other driving forces behind the program’s accomplishments, saying, “This has been such a success, and at this point I do want to give credit to Lt. Pigott and to Liz Bird for keeping it going. There’s always going to be some kind of new initiative or program that’s going to be launched with a lot of fanfare, and then you don’t hear another thing about it. But this program has gone on for 25 years. That’s an eternity to be involved in something. Twenty-five years is longer than most of our officers have served in the department. In fact, it’s probably older than some of them are. And since you are all friends of ours, we didn’t want to have you get involved with something that started with a lot of fanfare and then went away. We wanted you to be involved in something that you could be proud of and say, ‘Wow, it’s done some great things for the community and it keeps going.’”

The Holmdel Neighborhood Watch Program is always seeking to start groups in areas where none have been established, or to hold refresher meetings for groups in neighborhoods where families have moved away or new families have moved into the community. If you would be interested in becoming a Neighborhood Watch Captain or wish to join an existing group, please email or call Lt. Michael Pigott at 732-946-9690, ext. 1742