Worcester To Launch New Watch Program

SNOW HILL — The Worcester County Sheriff’s Department and county employees are teaming up to keep a closer eye out for criminal activity and missing persons.

County Watch for Safer Communities (CWSC) is a collaborative effort between the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, Board of Education, Public Works and State’s Attorney’s Office three years in the making. Beginning under former Sheriff Charles Martin and continued by current Sheriff Reggie Mason, CWSC is meant to be an umbrella program linking all departments involved together.

“It’s going to mean so much to law enforcement,” said Mason.

Under CWSC, county employees who often cruise the roads are asked to “observe and report” suspicious activity to their dispatchers, who will then contact the police. Mason explained that it will serve as an additional network of contacts beyond what officers in the field are capable of tracking. Between Public Works vehicles and school transportation units, the sheriff’s office estimates that the county might have 200 vehicles on the road on any given day.

“It’s more eyes out there,” Mason said. “It’s going to be a great safety feature for the county.”

The main focus of CWSC will be to quickly spread word throughout the county for missing people alerts. Amber alerts, which are issued for missing children, and Silver alerts, which are issued for missing, vulnerable adults, are the two most common. All information relating to the alerts, including descriptions of the missing person, information on any possible suspects and vehicles, will be broadcast to county employees. Those employees are then asked to keep an eye out, and to contact their dispatcher if they spot anything of notice.

However, Mason stressed that observation is all an employee should attempt to do if criminal activity is witnessed.

“They’re not to take action,” he said, “just to call.”

When Martin conceived the idea for what amounts to a professional, extended neighborhood watch for Worcester, the concept was well received, but ran into technical issues, according to Mason.

“It was something that never got completed,” he said.

However, Mason was unwilling to let the program drop, and together with partners throughout the county, took up where the past administration had left off.

“For the last eight months, I’ve pushed forward with it,” he said. “We’ve worked the issues out.”

Before joining CWSC, employees will be trained in recording broadcasts and reminded that they are neither required nor encouraged to place themselves “in harms’ way”.