Eve of Destruction Circa 8/02: Remember Neighborhood Watch?

When I was visiting our local Sheriff’s station last week (Not for a casually accepted arrest but to view their computer listing of registered sexual offenders in my neighborhood-and yours.) I picked up a few fliers on Neighborhood and School Watch programs.

I remember the rusted and weather-beaten old signs along some of the poorer streets in my early childhood neighborhood of East Los Angeles. You know which neighborhoods I meant, what people casually referred to in fifties movies as, “On the other side of the tracks.” I was grateful not to be living on a particular street as a kid and felt that the Neighborhood Watch signs were a joke, almost a challenge, to the “robber-man.”

Now fast forward toValencia: Home of the “Paseo-master-planned-community-” etc. etc. etc. Even in all of our four burrows: Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall as well as Valencia no one ever thought that a serious Neighborhood Watch program would be needed out here.

But my visit to our Sheriff station, prompted by own California children’s abductions in San Diego, Stanton and Quartz Hill made me want to dust off my old thoughts and look, like everyone else, for solutions.

Especially when a neighbor trimmed back her majestic oak tree recently and I could now see an old Neighborhood Watch sign at the corner of my very own cul de sac.

I asked my neighbors about that sign and re-activating it, so to speak. Well, my neighbors, through their yearly block parties and other events feel that they know everyone else pretty darn well. Thank you very much I wanted to shout. I was feeling the same and that sounded pretty good to me. We have a party coming up September 1st on the street. But what about the news of late? Would our cul de sac, much like the grander ones dotting town, be exempt?
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Would my neighbors be offended or upset with me if I invited a member of our local law enforcement for a visit? Not for “training residents in home security and reporting crime” but just to start the ball rolling with a little “How do…?”

Some of the tidbits from the flier to watch for that may or may not sound like new ideas to you include these reminders: Someone looking into windows or parked cars. Vehicles cruising aimlessly. (They may not be checking out your real estate for the reasons assumed!) Strangers sitting in a car, stopping to talk to kids. Abandoned vehicles, suspicious people, unusual noises.
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A sudden change in a neighbor’s routine: Newspapers piling up, drapes drawn and/or mailbox overflowing with mail.

When I poured over the School Watch fliers I had to admit that some of the things that were mentioned, like bringing weapons to school, graffiti and drugs, I hoped were slightly more prevalent in middle and highs schools. And, to my virgin experience, just back in my old neighborhood. My kid is in the second grade. I am a little out of the loop on that one.

Although having us patrol the route students take walking to and from school hit me as a splendid and well-timed idea.

Of course, if you read this column, and are older and wiser and interested in starting an awareness program in your kid’s school right here in town you need only to contact the National Crime Prevention Council www.weprevent.org . For me I will be contacting the National Association of Elementary School Principals www.naesp.org . Other resources

include the National Safety Center, located locally in Thousand Oaks at 805-373-9977, or on the web at www.nssc1.org and the National School Boards Association at www.nsba.org .

It’s a sign of the times. And to me, the best way to feel safe is to feel informed. It’s certainly no guarantee that bad things won’t happen to good people. But wouldn’t you feel better knowing you did everything within your power to protect your children? And throw a few elderly neighbors to watch out for in there to boot. Everybody needs a little “watchfulness” at times.