OAKTOWN — After an uptick in thefts and break-ins, residents residents are looking into starting a Neighborhood Watch program.

Roughly 20 people attended Wednesday’s town council meeting to voice their concerns, including retired police officers Nancy and Dwight Holbrook.

“We're locking our doors now and we've never before felt the need to do that,” Nancy Holbrook said.

The recent rash of petty crime began about eight weeks ago, residents say. It died down a bit only to ramp up again recently.

“What we're seeing is very unusual for a small town,” Holbrook said. “We just don't have much of that.”

Holbrook encouraged residents to begin looking out for one another and asked that the Sheriff’s Department help in whatever way it could.

“Our biggest concern is that someone's going to get hurt,” Holbrook said. “It can either be a homeowner or the ones breaking in.

“Whoever it is, I don't think they understand the gravity of what is going on,” she said. “People are scared.”

Residents took turns telling their stories of recent theft and vandalism to council members. In response, council president Stan Hobbs arranged for anyone interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch group to meet with Sheriff Mike Morris.

“Nothing is official until the meeting with the sheriff to iron out all the details,” said council member Randy Rinsch.

In the meantime, those who see anything suspicious should reach out to central dispatch at 812-882-1502.

Morris said these crimes are occurring roughly two to three times a week in Oaktown, sometimes that many in a single evening.

“It's never going to go away entirely, but it has picked up, it seems, here in the last couple weeks,” Morris said.

Morris suspects that juveniles are likely behind the recent crimes.

The department has added extra patrols and assigned additional deputies to Oaktown in response.

“We have been trying to stay ahead of this but it's very difficult to do,” Morris said. “It's discouraging to the (residents) of the county because these situations are happening all over, and they require manpower and time.”

He said to get a Neighborhood Watch group up and running would be helpful in reducing crime.

“A Neighborhood Watch is an extension of law enforcement — they are the eyes and ears,” Morris said.

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