Barbie Mays is turning her fear into action.
While looking out of her kitchen window on the evening of Feb. 4 on Liberty Street, Mays said, it looked as though “a wall was in front of this window.”
“Then I thought, ‘There’s someone looking in my window,’” Mays said.
She moved away momentarily. Soon after, she looked out of her window again and said she saw someone tall, thin and athletic running from her yard along Hill Street.
The same evening, her neighbor had a similar incident while cooking dinner, Mays said.
“She heard something in her kitchen window,” Mays said.
After the incident, feelings of panic crept in, Mays said, but she fought against letting them take root, despite having additional questionable experiences since then.
“You can either be a victim or you can get angry and turn that into something constructive,” Mays said.
Mays at first didn’t plan on sharing her experience, but hearing that a coworker’s daughter and son-in-law had also had someone on their porch peering in Feb. 3 about 10 blocks from Mays on Grove Street triggered a change of heart.
“We have the opportunity to make our community stronger and to be proactive,” Mays said. “Let’s take care of each other.”
Mays said spoke to the police, but she felt they didn’t seem to take it as seriously as she hoped they would.
However, she said, the police have followed through with a commitment to patrol the area around Liberty and Hill more.
“There was no criminal activity that has been officially reported to us,” Pilot Point Police Chief Tim Conner said.
The department is willing to work with any neighborhood watch, Conner said, “and try to answer questions and offer suggestions and give them the benefit of our experiences having worked with other neighborhood watch groups in the past.”
The couple who had a similar incident Feb. 3 filed a police report about the situation, Mays said.
Mays and many of her neighbors have added security features to their homes in an effort to protect themselves.
Mays, with the help of Martha Pierce and Tori Wells, held an initial neighborhood crime watch meeting, which about 10 people attended. While they met, several people shared experiences they found disconcerting.
“[We] had a little meeting on how to be proactive and make sure that everyone has everyone’s contact information and to just watch out for each other,” Mays said.
Allison Martin, who lives on The Square, also attended the meeting. She owns two German shepherds, and she walks the male each evening.
“I did tell some people that Hank and I would start walking that way,” Martin said, meaning along Liberty Street.
Martin plans to change up her route to help proactively notice anything suspicious along her new path.
Whitney Delcourt, who lives near Mays on Hill Street and serves on the City Council, said she plans to be involved in the neighborhood watch, but she missed the first meeting because of a family member’s illness.
“It’s nice for neighbors to watch out for each other,” Delcourt said. “And for me, too, you get to know your neighbors a little better.”
“I think neighborhood watches are always healthy,” Conner said. “I think they’re always productive. I think it’s a great opportunity for the neighbors to, if they don’t already know each other, to get to know each other.”
Conner also said having “extra sets of eyes” around the community increases safety.
“We can’t be everywhere at the same time, so to have folks that are out watching out for each other’s best interests is always helpful.”
Mays purchased signs to identify the area as having a neighborhood watch in which the residents “watch out for each other” and “report all suspicious activities to the police,” which she hopes to put up around the intersection of Liberty and Hill.
“Hopefully this is something that other areas of town will do,” Mays said.
Conner said he believes the creation of a neighborhood watch could have a positive domino effect around town.
“Once one gets started, it will lend itself to others popping up in other areas of the city as well,” Conner said.
Part of Mays’ concern about the situation, besides wanting to restore the peace she felt in her home, is for the safety of people on both sides of the glass.
“A homeowner could be harmed, or that person looking in the window could be harmed,” Mays said.
Calling the police is the safest and best response, Conner said.
Mays repeatedly emphasized how important she feels it is to be aware and to be prepared.
“We have to be proactive and involve not just the immediate neighbors, but we need to involve the city of Pilot Point,” she said. “All residents need to know that we have this opportunity to help each other and protect each other.”