New neighborhood watch group draws big turnout

2 dozen residents talk about way to keep area safe
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Leader Photo by Tim Ryan Shawano Police Lt. Dan Mauel takes questions from residents during the inaugural meeting of a new neighborhood watch group at a home in the 200 block of South Franklin Street on Thursday.

Leader Photo by Tim Ryan Sue Scheinert, one of the organizers of a new neighborhood watch group, talks with fellow residents of the area during the group’s inaugural meeting Thursday at a home in the 200 block of South Franklin Street.

It was word of a convicted sex offender wanting to move into the South Franklin Street neighborhood that spurred Sue Scheinert and Joyce Kotschi into action.

They rallied about a dozen neighbors to attend a meeting of the Sexual Offenders Appeal Board at City Hall to protest.

“I did not want a damn pervert in my neighborhood,” Scheinert said.

As it turned out the offender wouldn’t have been allowed to move into the neighborhood, anyway, and his request was denied. Their success at enlisting neighborhood involvement, however, started Scheinert and Kotschi thinking there was even more they could do.

On Thursday, they hosted the inaugural meeting a new neighborhood watch group. More than two dozen people showed up.

“Turnout was absolutely fabulous,” Scheinert said. “I was not expecting that many people.”

Several of them had experiences to share about break-ins, vandalism and other problems they have witnessed.

Scheinert said neighbors need to watch out for one another in the face of changes that have taken place in the area over the years.

“There are beautiful homes that have been sold and turned into apartments and they’re crumbling and they’re crappy and we’re sick of it,” she said.

Scheinert said the neighborhood should also monitor what goes on in Franklin Park once it’s developed and begins attracting more children to congregate there.

“It’s up to us to monitor their safety,” she said.

This new neighborhood watch, which covers an area from West Green Bay Street down to Eagle Street and from Washington Street to the river, is one of several already established in the city.

Shawano police, who spoke to the newly formed group Thursday, have been encouraging more neighborhoods to also form watch groups.

Neighbors knowing one another and keeping in contact with one another and with the police was the dominant theme of discussion.

Scheinert said the first step would be to create an email list of those wishing to participate so the lines of communication will be kept open.

At least one attendee, however, was initially apprehensive about the group’s focus after a few jokes made by some about the use of guns.

“I don’t want to be part of any like vigilante group or anything,” Starlyn Tourtillott said. “I’m really interested in a positive gathering of people, getting to know our neighbors.

“I think we need to do more of that in our community. If we know each other and establish relationships it would be better for everybody.”

Tourtillott said she worried that a reliance on guns could lead to a tragic accident.

“My biggest fear would be, everybody having their heart in the right place, they shoot an innocent kid or something who’s coming in drunk by accident. We don’t want that to happen,” she said. “I advocate calling law enforcement and supporting them. They know what they’re doing in our community and we need to establish a relationship with them. I would challenge you to think outside the box and not just run to the holster and the gun.”

Scheinert said she assumed all gun owners would be cautious.

“This is basically about looking out for each other and the hope is a positive outcome that we keep each other safe,” she said.

Tourtillott said after the meeting that she felt reassured about the group’s intentions.

Scheinert said afterward she was happy with the discussion and the suggestions that came out of the meeting.

“There’s a lot of people here with very good ideas,” she said. “Our chief of police did a beautiful job for us, it was very informative. I think we’re going to have a good group going here.”

Other attendees said they were looking forward to being able to take steps to improve safety in the area.

“We have to work with the community regarding out kids,” Karen DeKelver said. “We’re all concerned and we’re all going to try and make this happen now, make it safe for everybody. If we communicate with law enforcement we’ll do better and I think that’s what we need to do.”

Jan Lewellen, who was involved in an old neighborhood watch group that eventually faded, said she was encouraged by the turnout for this one.

“It never had a beginning like this,” she said.