A Pennsylvania chapter of the Ku Klux Klan plans to launch a neighborhood watch program in response to what Klansmen say is growing concern among community members over increasing criminal activity, the leader of the white supremacist group told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
"People who are wanting to commit criminal activity... should beware because the eyes of the Klan are on them," warned Frank Acona, imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights.
Members of the organization, which describes itself online as “unapologetically committed to the interest and values of the white race,” distributed flyers in Fairview Township on Friday that featured an image of a hooded Klansman above the words: “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.”
The flier also encouraged local residents to call into a 24-hour “Klanline” to report “troubles” in the neighborhood.
The idea to launch the program in Fairview Township — a community of just under 17,000 residents, most of whom are white — followed a recent spate of vehicle break-ins that Acona said could indicate that police were too "overwhelmed" to respond.
However, Fairview Township Police did make an arrest in the case —19-year-old James A. Detter III, who is white.
Nevertheless, Acona insisted that the neighborhood watch would not target anyone based on race. Rather, he said, the Klan aimed to assist the police in their efforts to protect the community.
"I'm sure the police are going to downplay it, but we're out there to help law enforcement and they really ought to welcome us as far as I'm concerned,” Acona said. “They should be happy that we are out there doing what we can to help make their job easier.”
But police aren’t happy at all. In fact, they’ve made it clear that a Klan-backed neighborhood watch is not welcome.
A copy of the flier distributed in Fairview Township Traditionalist American Knights
"The police department is the only organization who can make arrests or investigate crimes or things like that,” Lt. Jason Loper told Al Jazeera. “The KKK doesn't have any authority or jurisdiction in this area."
According to Loper, no one in the community has come forward to express safety concerns to police. In fact, the latest crime statistics published on the police force’s website state that only 307 criminal arrests were made in 2012 — down from 411 arrests in 2010.
Loper went so far as to dismiss the Klan’s plans as little more than a publicity stunt.
"I would be very surprised if they are doing anything to try to combat crime," he said. "My officers have not seen anybody out there doing this, trying to prevent crime or any type of patrols or anything like that."
"Basically, what I think is this is them trying to get publicity for their group."