Law enforcement gets help from Phantom Rescue - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Law enforcement gets help from Phantom Rescue

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

November 13, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Burglaries and robberies in Albany are up from this time last year and aggravated assaults have more than doubled.

Albany Police and the Sheriff's office work hard to prevent these types of crimes and now they're getting some help from an unlikely source. It's a small group of volunteers who are now adding their eyes and ears to the streets and calling police when they see crimes in progress.

They say it's the only way the crime rate in Albany is going to improve if citizen volunteers like themselves take ownership of the streets. In areas where the group patrols businesses say it's making a difference.

They're another set of eyes and ears on the streets of Albany, but they're not technically law enforcement. The Phantom Rescue Team is just nine volunteers who want to keep Albany's streets crime free.

"We pretty much handle everything, from the east side to the west side when you least expect it, we're there," said Joe Sierra, Phantom Rescue Team.

There to break up groups of rowdy teens, talk with them about getting involved, or stop a felony from happening.

"We're just trying to help make a difference and I strongly believe that together we can overcome this crisis that we have, this fear, our citizens are afraid to come out, the businesses are closing before the time that they should be," said Sierra.

So, the group volunteers to escort someone to the ATM and has agreed to watch over more than 50 businesses including car dealerships and convenience stores after hours and all they ask is for an occasional donation.

"Some of them donate 25 dollars some 50, some donate 100 dollars and they've been working real close with us and that's the only support that we're getting right now," said Sierra.

"We donate to them and I support them 100 percent. I've had a couple of phone calls at night to where they found something that was suspicious one or two times they've called APD on me, for me, and they've busted, we had a homeless man sleeping in a vehicle that was left unlocked," said Billy Chambers, Bill Chambers Motors.

"Why? It's the only way I feel that we're going to make our community safer. We don't want the businesses to run away. We want the businesses to come back here to Albany. We have a great city here. This is awesome. The community has to get together here, you can't leave everything up to the police department," said Sierra.

"Officers cannot be everywhere, in every place, all the time so, these extra eyes are a tremendous help," said Phyllis Banks-Whitley, APD Media Manager.

Billy Chambers says it's made a difference at his business and hopes the group keeps up the good work. The Phantom Rescue Team is looking for more volunteers.

Every Tuesday they hold sign-ups at the Days Inn on West Oglethorpe from seven to ten.  To contact the organization you can reach Joe Sierra at (229)206-8229.   

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