MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Col. Daniel J. Lecce, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune commanding officer, and members of the Provost Marshal's Office met with base housing residents for a Community Watch meeting held at the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities Bicentennial Community Center, Monday.
The resident-led meeting was held in an effort to find a solution to recent crimes aboard base housing areas including Berkley Manor, Watkins Village and Paradise Point.
Issues ranging from vandalism of personal property and theft to full-blown assault cases were discussed during the gathering of service members and their families.
"I pushed really hard for this meeting," said Sandy Merrill, an AMCC resident and mother of a middle school student assaulted by three teens.
"I come to these meetings occasionally," said Lecce. "But the number of (Interactive Customer Evaluation) comments and complaints to housing really got my attention and I decided that it's important that we do something about this issue."
With the help of PMO and AMCC staff, residents plan to reimplement a community watch program to deter crime by coming together as a neighborhood to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
"We are on base for the security and comfort," said Maureen Deets, an AMCC resident. "For some of us, our husbands are deployed. We want to live on base to take advantage of that security."
The Community Watch will consist of a coordinator for the entire area and several block captains to ensure information can be disseminated throughout the community.
"You will be the ears and the eyes for the military police, because there are not enough policemen, military or civilian, to put on every corner," said James Harris, a physical security Provost Marshal's officer, Crime Prevention section.
This program does not mandate standing posts or additional watches by participants. Rather, it keeps members connected through reports and also provides a paper trail for PMO.
"My husband has been in the Marine Corps for 20 years and, when we first moved on base, we were always told that living on base is a privilege and we always told our children that he is responsible for their behavior," said Melissa Pierce, an AMCC resident.
One of the most common concerns at the meeting revolved around consequences for the mischievous acts that have been recently committed by teens and youth living aboard the base housing areas.
"There's a process for these things," said Lecce. "There's something called the Juvenile Disciplinary Rehabilitation Board."
The board's purpose is to informally hear cases of juvenile misconduct aboard the base and advise and make recommendations to the commanding officer to safeguard the good order and discipline aboard the installation.
The board is not intended to embarrass or harass the juvenile, parents or legal guardians, but to impress upon the juvenile the consequences of his or her actions.
The board will assess the degree of involvement and rehabilitative potential of the juvenile; assess the seriousness of the misconduct and if necessary, recommend appropriate corrective actions.
"I think if we, as a community, can pull together and help each other, we can make this better," Lecce said.
Some of the goals of the Community Watch include increasing public education concerning local problems and effective preventative measures that lead to improved residential security, implementing community-based programs that are designed to increase the level of community awareness, identifying and developing effective programs that increase the crime prevention posture of the community and enhancing relations between the military police and the community.
Ultimately, the aim is that this program survives well beyond the current span of the residents staying there and can be passed on from generation to generation as Marines and sailors move in and out of base housing.