Sussex looks to a Guardian Angel

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    SUSSEX-For the past eight weeks, the sole mission of the Sussex Boro Neighborhood Watch has been to "let the people know that we are here and we are forming," said Councilman James Ezzo at Monday night's mayor and council meeting. Ezzo who is spearheading the Neighborhood Watch, has incorporated weekend street patrols made up of local volunteers. "These volunteers are not trained to handle any potentially dangerous situations without assistance from the State Police," said Ezzo. So, while he believes that goodwill and awareness has been raised, this is only a short-term fix for this boro which has been without a police force since 1991. The New Jersey State Police took over patrolling the boro, but their presence is limited. Any talks about re-establishing a police department have always hit a brick wall at the issue of paying for it. Lately, the boro has considered entering into an agreement with a neighboring municipality to provide a policeman, but nothing has been decided. A publicized statistic that the crime rate has doubled in Sussex Boro in the past year and is now the highest in the county has concerned residents wanting to take the Neighborhood Watch to a higher level. Chris Parrott, owner of the Sussex Inn, is concerned that town businesses and property values are being tainted by the high crime stigma. Parrott would like the town council to address the real issues of crime in the boro "rather than look the other way." Mayor Katherine Little is in total agreement and was extremely supportive of Ezzo when he called upon Curtis Sliwa of the famed Guardian Angels to inquire about starting a local chapter in Sussex Boro. Sliwa reacted enthusiastically and, on Oct. 19, he came to the boro to educate residents and the mayor about his organization, now in its 25th Anniversary year. Born in New York City, the Guardian Angels operate around the world promoting "safety and empowerment" in cities. Sliwa's new plan is to open thirty new chapters next year in more rural and smaller communities such as Sussex Boro. To establish a local Guardian Angels chapter, the boro must go through a three-month orientation process. The right fit and the right volunteers all have to gel along with extensive training. But, the council feels, with Sliwa wanting to expand his empire and Sussex Boro wanting to clear its good name, the timing may be perfect. A November follow-up meeting is in the works.