It was more than two years ago now, February 8, 2006, to be exact, that my home was robbed and my entire world changed. I live in Eastwood and typically work out of my home, but, as fate would have it, I was gone all that day. Just after 5 p.m., I walked in and immediately knew something was wrong – the sliding doors were open and our gun case was lying open on the living room floor.
Luckily, the burglars were unable to get the guns out of the case, but when I went into my bedroom I saw they had gotten all my jewelry. After calling the police and filing a report, I ventured out into my neighborhood and knocked on as many doors as I could. The police, as this was not a violent crime where someone got hurt, were unable to do this, so I took it into my hands. I wanted to warn my neighbors, but also wanted to ask everyone if they’d seen something, anything, that could be a clue to finding the perpetrators.
In a neighboring subdivision, I found a man walking his dog who told me he knew of two other neighbors whose homes had also been broken into that day. If only there was some sort of system where we all could have coordinated our efforts to respond to these crimes!
The next day, determined to get some of my sentimental jewelry back, I distributed flyers with photos of each item to as many pawn shops as I could find. Eventually, two arrests came from my footwork – one of the thieves from my neighbor’s home and one who’d broken into my house – and a new life mission was born in me.
I started organizing the Eastwood Neighborhood Watch Groups. It’s not as hard, or time consuming as you might think. This is not a group of citizens who physically patrol the streets at night. It’s simply a communication system, a phone tree of sorts, to make sure everyone is alerted to a crime in the neighborhood for their own personal safety, but also to gather information and feed it to the police.
It works like this: there is one leader for each subdivision. Within each subdivision, there is a block captain who is responsible for no more than ten homes. These block captains are the key, as most information to be distributed will be first funneled to them, they turn around and pass it up to the leader, who then sends it back down the tree through every other block captain in the neighborhood.
At most, a block captain has ten phone calls to make. That’s all that’s involved in keeping our neighborhood safe. Very seldom does an emergency even happen (only twice in Eastwood since we started it, thank goodness!), and so in quiet times we stay active with a quick check via email throughout our system.
The Sheriff’s Homeland Security Section will help you set up your group and offer tips on personal and home security. Some tips: gather all information for involved residents early on and assign block captains before the Sheriff’s meeting to save yourself a great deal of time.
Talk with your HOA Safety Committee, put a blurb in your newsletter, and get to know the people living around you. As OCSO says, “The best crime prevention device ever invented is a good neighbor.” Ten phone calls seem like a tiny price tag for helping to protect our families and our property.
Article By Christine Greenaway