MEXICO — Since 2010, the crime rate in Mexico has gone up 73 percent. Thefts and burglaries are increasing, including daytime burglaries.

With that in mind, interim Police Chief Roy Hodsdon organized a meet and greet on Dec. 3 to begin the process of organizing a neighborhood watch.

“The idea with the neighborhood watch is that I need some help. There’s only one of us out there at any given time. Just that phone call to us, maybe just one chance out of 10, might be that one time we see the person to help us with that one little piece to solve a crime,” he noted.

The 75-minute session, held in the Lions’ Dan, across from the Mexico Police Department, was attended by 11 citizens, along with Officer Rob Drouin and seven Police Explorers.

“You guys know your area better than we do, and you know when there’s someone in your area that’s usually not around,” said Hodsdon.

“Criminals today will do anything to get away, especially a juvenile. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. We don’t want to see a vigilante group. It’s about neighbors talking to neighbors; taking care of each other,” he noted.

One resident asked what their rights are if their home in broken into.

Hodsdon, talking about home invasions, said, “You’re a victim. You have a right to protect yourself and your family. They’re there to do harm or damage.”

Another resident, whose home had been broken into, said he’s added a couple of locks to his door and has baseball bats strategically positioned in case he has a need to use one.

“Criminals are watching; targeting neighborhoods. They don’t work, so they have the time to look for key things to target on. Some even keep journals. We’ve had some areas where we’ve seemed to notice a lot of crime,” said Hodsdon, who reminded residents that theives want to pawn these items for drugs.

The areas the chief said earlier he’d like to see neighborhood watch groups would be Zone I (Middle, Kimball, Porter, Osgood), Zone II (Fourth, Fifth, Howard) and Zone III (Granite, Main). Hodsdon said they will also place signs proclaiming an area as a neighborhood watch zone.

Resident George Byam said people are hesitant to call 911 to reach police. He asked about when 911 should be used in relation to a crime.

Hodsdon responded that 911 is used when there is an emergency such as an accident or even when you see a kid in your backyard carrying off your stereo.

He added, “If you’re on a cell phone, depending on where you’re at, you may get the State Police or the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.”

Hodsdon said they have made a list of vacant houses to watch. “Vacant houses bring people to your neighborhood that you don’t want. If you know of a vacant house, let us know to put on the list.”

He also asked people to let them know when a neighbor who was living alone passes. That’s because those places become targets for thieves who steal their medications.

Police will talk to relatives before taking out the medications, and letting out word that the meds have been removed over the scanner.

Hodsdon said people should keep a list of bar codes and serial numbers of their valuables. Doing so will make it easier for police to recover them if they are taken. For items like tools, if a name is etched or painted on them, “they may be less like to be stolen.”

Byam then asked what the Police Explorers’ role will be in the neighborhood watch program.

Explorer Nick Billings responded that they will ride along with a police officer, then be assigned to a block. They will check in with residents and report back to the police department.

Hodsdon said the Explorers will be liasions to the program. “They’re Explorers but not cops. They have no more authority than you have. They will not walk the streets. They’ll ride in their vehicle in an assigned area and will not apprehend if they see something. They’re our extra eyes and ears.”

Hodsdon said the Explorers will also be providing another valuable service starting in January when they will start an elder watch program. Through a list that elderly can sign up for, the Explorers, who received training for this program, will call people on the list everyday to make sure of their well being.

He said the program is tentatively scheduled to get underway on Feb. 1.

Hodsdon said they have put some tips on the Mexico Police Department’s Facebook page.

He said thieves don’t go to places that are well lit, have dogs in the back yard, or places that are well groomed. The use of motion lights also help.

“I always say, keep your vehicles locked, no matter what. If I’m coming in here, just to grab something, I lock my door. If I’m running into my house for a minute, I lock my door. Just a habit I’ve gotten myself into over the years,” said Hodsdon.

He announced that there will be another neighborhood watch meeting after the holidays.

“We have some guest speakers lined up — instructors on neighborhood watches and community policing who can help us out,” Hodsdon said, adding that he also has a reformed burglar who’s been out of the business for a few years and is willing to talk about what burglars look for.

“I think this will be a great thing. I want to keep an open forum. This is a learning project for all of us,” he noted.

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