New year, new push for neighborhood watch programs in Virginia Beach

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The shooting death of one of their own fuels many in the Chimney Hill neighborhood's latest push for a neighborhood watch program.

Christine Bender was shot dead in front of her home December 4, leaving Richelle Jones and others in the neighborhood stunned.

"I think the entire neighborhood was in complete and utter shock," said Jones Wednesday. "Everybody's kind of heightened, on edge and worried."

Bender's death - one of seven area shootings police believe were carried out around that time by teenagers now in custody.

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"I think a neighborhood watch would greatly improve the crime rate around here...assure that more people would have their eyes out for something suspicious," said Jones.

That's what Officer Bradley Detrich with the Virginia Beach Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit is looking for.

"The citizens are the eyes and ears for the police department and the more people we have looking out their windows and paying attention to the way things are, the better they can serve themselves and as with us," he said.

Detrich says police have revamped the neighborhood watch program and hope to get as many areas involved as possible.

This year police plan to hold more training sessions; the first one held Wednesday night.

Ideally Detrich says half of those in each neighborhood would be involved with one coordinator overseeing.

"If I have one representative I can communicate with and they can communicate back with me it makes it a lot easier," he said.

Jones' husband, John, was at the Wednesday meeting at the city municipal complex along with others from Chimney Hill and other neighborhoods. Jones says they're ready to help any way they can.

"I'm retired, I'm stay-at-home, I've got nothing better to do than make sure the community is safe. I've got two young children and I want to make sure they can go out and play at the neighborhood park," she said.

The Crime Prevention Unit has scheduled 12 more neighborhood watch training sessions:

Feb. 9 - Williams Farm Rec Center, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 - Great Neck Rec. Center, 9-11 a.m.

Feb. 21 - LETA, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Mar. 14 - Municipal Center Building 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Apr. 10 - Atlantic Shores Church, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Apr. 15 - Kempsville Library, 9-11 a.m.

May 10 - Bayside Rec. Center, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

June 21 - Municipal Center Building 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Aug. 8 - Bayside Library, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Sep. 20  Municipal Center Building 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 - Central Library, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Dec. 12 - Municipal Center Building 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m.