Brockville group takes neighbourhood watch to another level

When the sun sets in Brockville, Ont., a group of residents come together to walk the streets and trails looking for suspicious and criminal activity.

The group is called The Brockville Watchdogs and they were created after the body of Damian Sobieraj, 33, was found in the St. Lawrence River on Sept. 14, after he was walking his dog in the park the previous night.

“This past year, I started to notice that Brockville had become more dangerous and when the body was found, I had to do something,” said Talen O’Connor, founder of Brockville Watchdogs.

Brockville police spoke to Global News about the investigation and said that Sobieraj called for police assistance on Sept. 13, saying he was in an altercation with youths at Hardy Park in Brockville. The call got dropped before police were able to get his name, said Staff Sgt. Tom Fournier.

Once the community received word that Sobieraj had died and the police deemed it suspicious, many Brockvillians turned to social media to voice their fear and outrage.

That night, O’Connor started to look for a way to help local enforcement to tackle crime and he began recruiting likeminded concerned citizens who were willing to give up their evenings for the betterment of the community.

Since then, the Brockville Watchdogs have grown to about 250 members and have a steady rotation of 15 to 20 volunteers patrolling the streets at night, said O’Connor.

“This is something that I started and at the start, I thought it was going to be this small thing; it turned into this huge entity,” said O’Connor.

Global News went along with the Watchdogs for a nightly patrol, and several residents approached the group to thank the men and women for their work.

The Watchdogs spent the majority of the night walking through bike trails and forested areas but did not come across any suspicious behaviour.

The Watchdogs say they are not only looking for crime, but rather, they see themselves as Good Samaritans.

On Monday, Oct. 29, a few of the volunteers heard a scream while patrolling the downtown area and they followed the call for help until they found a woman who had suffered a diabetic attack, said David Goodknecht of the Watchdogs.

Brockville police say they appreciate the community support as they continue to deal with incidents of violence involving youth.

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