Winters Neighborhood Watch continues proactive work

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

The rash of burglaries and thefts that have plagued Winters since earlier this year have yet to be solved. Neither the Winters PD, nor the Runnels County Sheriff's Office have made any arrests or made public updates to the cases. Earlier this month, Runnels County Sheriff Carl Squyres did say that he had requested help from the Texas Rangers, "I've requested help from the Texas Rangers, but I'm not going to say in what capacity that I asked them to help."

Members of Winters Neighborhood Watch have been sharing photos of suspected burglars in the watch's Facebook group

Winters has had a Neighborhood Watch group for quite some time, but it's ballooned into one of the most proactive Neighborhood Watch groups in west Texas. Their Facebook group went from a couple dozen members to over 650 members with about 8 months. The rash of burglaries and thefts motivated the group to become more active and vocal, working to solve the crimes that are plaguing the town and surrounding area. Currently, it's estimated that almost 40 burglaries and thefts have been committed in Winters and the surrounding area.

Angela New and Hector Reyna were hit twice by thieves. Just a month, ago New's brother ran off a person that they suspect was casing their home. The suspect, who was on a bicycle, was eventually stopped by police. As it turns out, the bicycle that the suspect was riding was stolen. Reyna and New help form part of the core of the Neighborhood Watch crew, "We have about 9 or 10 people who do a lot of the work. We try to have an organized response and coordinate our efforts," Reyna commented.

The goal of the Neighborhood Watch is to receive and relay accurate information to law enforcement, while the members look out for each other in the process. Reyna says that they are serious about getting verifiable information, "We tell people not to go spreading rumors. If someone comes up to us and says, 'a little birdie told me,' we tell them that we need facts. We don't go on gossip or rumor. If someone says that they know something, we'd like to know how and why they know it."

It's not that the members of the Neighborhood Watch group are trying to take over the role of law enforcement, they're only trying to help. The string of burglaries and thefts have many people on edge, particularly because numerous firearms have been stolen. New says that the members of the group are just helping to keep an eye on things, "People aren't out there necessarily trying to be police officers. But, we know who many of the drug dealers are and we know if suspicious people are in our neighborhood. This is a small town."

An image of a suspected burglar in Winters. Members of the town's Neighborhood Watch have banded together to attempt to stem the flow of over 30 burglaries and thefts.

According to Reyna, this is something that the members of the Watch feel like must be done, "Citizens are putting themselves out there on the road, patrolling, because that's what we feel like we have to do. The police officers are public servants, but we're out there doing their jobs." Reyna said that the Winters police chief, Paula Geyer, has only publicly commented on the case once, leading people to be concerned that there isn't much being done to develop leads and apprehend any suspects, "She spoke for a few seconds at one city council meeting and just said that it's an ongoing investigation. That's all that has been said. Even the city council isn't getting answers."

At a recent Neighborhood Watch meeting, several people voiced concerns about police response to the calls of suspicious people. Reyna and New said that at one point they called 911 about a suspicious person and the 911 operator told them that she didn't have any officers on duty and she'd have to wake an officer up to come out there. In another instance, New said that they were told an officer couldn't come out until the following morning, "What sense does that make? The person will be long gone by then."