Neighborhood watch group sees success in Wading River

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12/10/2010 7:03 PM |

Members of Wading River’s Woodland Acres Neighborhood Watch are championing one of their own as a local hero.
The watch group member — a parent who prefers to remain anonymous — assisted Riverhead Police with last week’s burglary arrest of a 22-year-old, said the watch group’s organizer, Angela Sweeny.

“The resident called police after seeing someone wearing a backpack who was staring at houses and walking around in the neighborhood,” Ms. Sweeny said, noting also that the parent tracked the man’s whereabouts for police.

Shortly after, Riverhead officers located and arrested Corey Hartmann, allegedly while he was in possession of property stolen from a North Woods Drive home, police said. Authorities said Mr. Hartmann was responsible for other area burglaries as well. He was charged with four counts of second-degree burglary.

The bucolic Woodland Acres development, located between North Country Road and North Wading River Hollow Road in Wading River, includes about 200 homes — many with one-acre lots – and about 150 residents who are active participants in the community’s watch group, Ms. Sweeny said.

The large and unusually active watch group was formed in 2008 after the neighborhood experienced 13 burglaries within a few weeks.

Ms. Sweeny’s house was one of those homes.

“I was really angry and I didn’t want to feel like a victim,” she said.

Ms. Sweeny had about $18,000 worth of jewelry stolen, including a bracelet from her great-great-grandmother, silver trinkets she has collected since she was a child and gifts from her husband.

Before the theft, Ms. Sweeny said, she didn’t know her neighbors very well because many homes are isolated between wooded areas.

“I wanted to get people mobilized,” she said. “I went out and put flyers up on every corner, spoke to people and the response I got was amazing.”

The community circulated a petition, garnering over 200 signatures, made noise at Riverhead Town Hall, met with police and the town’s elected leaders and asked for more of a police presence in the area.

As part of the push to restore security to the area, police bosses urged the residents to form a watch group. “We never caught [a suspect] in the first burglary,” Ms. Sweeny said. “But we caught this one.”

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