Nation Valley News
CHESTERVILLE — Fed up with ongoing street intimidation, incidents of vandalism and theft, and especially last month’s rotten-apple-throwing attack on a 90-year-old woman in her home, a group of residents have banded together as the new Chesterville Watch.
The Aug. 20 break-in and invasion of Laura David’s South Street home by heartless marauders “is where I started to feel uncomfortable,” says Robert Dobbie, who moved to Chesterville in February.
Dobbie founded the Chesterville Watch Facebook group Aug. 30, a site where residents are encouraged to keep each other informed about crime and street harassment incidents and to post photos and video.
He wasn’t “expecting sunshine and roses” in Chesterville, “but from what I have seen so far is; large groups of teenagers walking up the middle of the streets being loud and cursing when many of us have small children outside at these times,” Dobbie wrote in a Facebook chat.
He was also disturbed by “people walking around screaming and hitting road signs at 6 a.m.” and “groups of teens harassing women walking by even if they have a baby with them.”
Dobbie says he was spurred to express his frustrations on another Facebook group after fishing a flower box from the river two days ago — one of two boxes he noticed missing from their usual perch on the waterfront railing. His report on ‘Chesterville swap & sell or trade’ “shocked and saddened” many others, he says, prompting them to come forward with their own stories.
That led to the decision to branch off with his own public group, Chesterville Watch, which had already hit 200 followers by Aug. 31. “I would say the main thing that influenced me to make the group was the apple incident, but also seeing how many people in town want to see a change and are willing to help make a difference. Some people have been saying they are beginning to be afraid in their own homes at times.”
Falon Wallace, adminstrator on the other Facebook site, says she has offered to create vinyl Chesterville Watch stickers for the group. “I was hoping it was a good way to make it more aware to the People and or Person responsible that the community finds this unacceptable,” she also told Nation Valley News in a Facebook chat.
Wallace says that while she hasn’t experienced the issues herself, she does have friends “afraid to walk in the evenings” in Chesterville. She has heard of incidents of random verbal abuse and has neighbours on her street who have had items stolen from their yards. “I think that’s my biggest worry is that we are afraid to walk our own streets.” She adds, “And must [we] be always looking over our shoulders in fear our belongings will be taken off our front lawns?”
Dobbie says the group is intended to assist the OPP “in their current efforts in the matters that have been arising.” And he wants everyone in town to know about it. Asked if he sees the group evolving into citizen patrols at night — as the village’s former Neighbourhood Watch Group did in the days before Facebook — he replies, “If the activities continue to worsen, I would say it may warrant something like that, given there is a majority vote.”
Online, Chesterville Watch has also drawn attention to apparent vandalism to windows at the library building. Another poster has reported being yelled at with a racial epithet.
But a couple of others on the site have expressed caution about blaming all teens. One poster reported that her son was stopped and questioned by police while he was walking home, sparking some civil debate on the page.
The new five-by-seven-inch stickers are available in white, red, blue and black at charge of $5 to recover the cost of the vinyl, says Wallace, who intends to drop the price further if there’s enough interest. She says the stickers are good for doors, windows and siding and “make a clear statement” to those operating on the wrong side of the law.