What? Me in Neighborhood Watch?

NeighborhoodWatchSignBy George Miller & Dan Pinedo

Editor’s note: Although this report focuses on Oxnard, the ideas can apply to almost any community.

Significant cutbacks in Police Dept. funding/staffing and a big jump (56%) in local crime have spurred a renewed interest in alternative methods to address this plague on society. The problem potentially threatens everyone in the city. The Oxnard Police Dept. (OPD) has been reacting with several different programs, including a revival of the city’s Neighborhood Watch program (NW), a widely used approach used to leverage police resources via enlisting residents to act as eyes and hears.

On February 18, about 45 people plus OPD staff came to a training session designed to orient, inform and motivate prospective and existing members. The session was kicked off by two celebrities- Oxnard’s 2015 Employee of the Year and Assembly District 44 (most of Ventura County) Woman of the Year. In case you didn’t already know who they are, that’s Miguel Lopez, Community Affairs Manager and Jeri Williams, Oxnard Police Chief.

DSC_2054

Oxnard PD Detective Crystal Walker and Community Affairs Manager Miguel Lopez promote Neighborhood Watch. Photo: Dan Pinedo/CitizensJournal.us

Presentation

Chief Jeri Williams told us that this program can economically leverage OPD resources which are spread thin due to budget problems, by using the public as eyes and ears to detect crime/potentially dangerous situations. A large number of repeat offenders commit a disproportionate portion of offenses. (Why they still remain at large is the subject of another discussion. It doesn’t appear to be due to OPD’s inability to arrest them.)

Miguel Lopez and Detective Crystal Walker were introduced as the OPD coordinators of the NW program.

Officer Martin Perez was introduced as the officer liaison with the Rose Park Neighborhood Watch. This partnership has made a meaningful reduction in crime there.

Detective Crystal Walker, Crime Prevention Officer – [email protected], made a very comprehensive presentation for such a short period of time, including Q & A. You can see the visuals presented here:  NW Training 021816. We recommend that you read it, although the oral presentation and Q& A that go with it would be much more valuable to you. You won’t get all that transpired unless you attend the next presentation, to be announced.

Here’s the event video

She said everyone should conduct and write down a personal inventory. Photos are helpful. Items should be marked/engraved with some type of personal ID number, for recovery and verification of ownership. Houses, cars, vehicles, personal property should be locked, secure. Areas should be well lit/visible at night. This helps discourage theft/prowlers or worse.  The city may assist with lighting in potentially hazardous public common areas (no guarantees).

Walker told us that the NW program  can help unite neighborhoods and the community and increase neighborhood cohesiveness.  The idea is for neighbors to collaborate to watch for anomalies- people who don’t seem to belong in the area NeighborhoodWatchSignand/or doing suspicious things, dangerous situations, then inform their Block Captain, who in turn informs OPD.  When this happens, cime can be reduced, fear of crime can be reduced and people can feel better about their neighborhoods and personal/home security. People should watch for personal threats, property crimes- theft, vandalism, even potential terrorism.

NW groups have to buy their own signs, but the City will install them “free.”

Several useful resources were pointed out:

  • https://nextdoor.com/  A very popular, widely used “social networking” system, used to help tie communities together via simple, enhanced communications.
  • Beat coordinators– OPD has officers assigned to the neighborhoods, who are ready to establish communications wiith Neighborhood Watch groups and follow through on situation reports.
  • http://www.crimemapping.com/  Maps out what crimes are happening and where. Not all crimes appear there.
    OxnardCrimemapping

    crimemapping.com

  • http://nnw.org/  National NW site. Lots of ideas, tools, buy signs, etc.
  • “RAD” class- training on prevention of rape, aggression, dissent (Mike Narostica- 805-385-7600)
  • https://www.facebook.com/OxnardPD  Useful site- over 15,000 members

 

 

 

 

 

NeighborhodWatchNOT

This is NOT what it should be

What it is NOT

Detective Crystal Walker emphasized that Neighborhood Watch is NOT a “vigilante” program, that residents should avoid taking direct action and instead report suspicious/criminal activities and unsafe situations to public safety organizations (Police, Fire Depts). She used the infamous Florida case of Travon Martin/Zimmerman as an example. Without getting into who was right or wrong, she said, Zimmerman, an armed Neighborhood Watch member, was in violation of policy in that he was too aggressive in following Martin closely.

OPD is emphatic in recommending that NW members focus on quickly and accurately reporting problems rather than attempting to address them personally.

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Assistant Chief strongly supports Neighborhood Watch

Assistant Chief Jason Benites

OPD Assistant Chief Jason Benites

Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites has been a proponent of neighborhoods organizing to help guide the police to problems. “The concept of neighborhood watch has changed over the past years. It should no longer be viewed solely as a small group of residents who spend their free time patrolling the blocks around their houses. In no case do we advocate residents confronting suspicious activity. In today’s version of neighborhood watch, neighborhood networks lessen the need for organized patrols, as just about anyone can participate from within their own home. With the great availability of mobile phones, as well as computers and free apps, neighborhood watches are built around communication networks, established and run by residents. It starts with neighbors getting to know each other. The next step involves developing communication networks, whether it is a simple phone list or participation in networks like Nextdoor.com. Once these two first objectives are met, it becomes a matter of teaching residents to effectively report suspicious activity to the police, so we can handle it. Simply put, these networks become eyes and ears for us, and this is a tremendous force multiplier for us, as information is the key.” (From OPD web page)

 

Detective Crystal Walker, Crime Prevention Officer

Detective Walker said to us the next day “We hope to take back the neighborhoods…. use word of mouth to spread the news about Neighborhood Watch  … spread it to other neighborhoods.” When asked what percentage of neighborhoods have active NW groups, she said she didn’t have any numbers handy, “maybe 10-15” but it is much lower than during its heyday in the 1990’s, when an increase in crime spurred a successful campaign to build it up.

On NextDoor.com a very popular neighborhood social networking tool, which OPD highly recommends and participates in, she said there are 52 neighboorhoods identified.

She says OPD is willing to conduct more of these training sessions and that the next one will likely be in RiverPark, TBA. She said she or her partner Miguel Lopez would be happy to answer any further questions or work to improve this needed program- 805-385-7600.

 

Rose Park Watch , by Dan Pinedo

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Oxnard Rose Park Neighborhood Watch Team. Councilman Bert Perello at right. Photo: Dan Pinedo/CitizensJournal.us

The Rose Park neighborhood in Oxnard organized its own neighborhood watch to deal with the rise in graffiti and crime. Made up of several middle-aged men who patrol their neighborhood early in the morning to spot and remove graffiti before residents have a chance to see it. Throughout the day and evening they watch and patrol to spot and report suspicious activity.
 
Their efforts has reduced crime in their community. To recognize their efforts, the Monsanto Company sponsored them and paid to have yellow jackets embroidered with, “Vecinos Unidos of Rose Park” and a shaking hands emblem. Because the jackets are yellow, the neighbors have nicknamed them “Los Canarios”.
 
The community crime report map shows that in the last 30 day period from 1/18/16 to 2/16/16
there were only 2 vehicle burglary, and 3 motor vehicle thefts. 1 of the vehicles was recovered.
Rose Park 1

Crime has dropped considerably in the Rose Park neighborhood since the Neighborhood Council pushed the Watch program.

 

Neighborhood Watch Handbook – Oxnard Police Department

Oxnard Police Neighborhood Watch Information Meetings …

 

George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. Dan Pinedo is a Citizen Journalist and photographer living in Oxnard.

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Dotty Pringle
Dotty Pringle
3 years ago

Nextdoor will be more effective when they educate themselves and others on discrimination, bullying and hate speech. The rules appear different for some leads and many inject their OWN MORALS when judging others.

It seems very clickish in a lot of areas and I do believe criminals use this forum too, for lots of information that peoole are so willing to give out, like their children’s phone numbers, their whereabouts and when they come and go. I see more crime in areas that share TOO MUCH.

Some of the leads are extremely questionable especially when ours can state she is a social worker and we checked, she NEVER HAS BEEN a registered social worker. Nextdoor does not vett as they say they do.