Neighborhood Watch: How to Win Friends and Influence Burglars

OUTLOOK photo
Neighborhood Watch signs indicate residents on that block have agreed to look out for one another, including watching out for suspicious activity.

Twice last week and four times this week, Deputy Eric Matejka was scheduled to initiate a group of neighbors into the Neighborhood Watch program — of which there are now 35 active groups in La Cañada Flintridge.
Neighborhood Watch is program intended to educate and unite residents in an effort to prevent crime.
Cydney Motia said homes in her neighborhood were burglarized several times before she and others on the block teamed up to form a Neighborhood Watch group eight years ago. There haven’t been any since, she said.
“It’s really worked out great for my group,” she said. “When residents don’t know each other, they don’t really look out for each other. But once you have a Neighborhood Watch group … then the neighbors can get to know each other and really start looking out for each other and paying attention.”
Matejka leads those initial meetings, which take about 90 minutes and are always hosted by someone in the neighborhood. Residents use the opportunity to get to know each other, often over hors d’oeuvres, before Matejka covers “everything that happens in La Cañada, as far as types of crimes and how they’re perpetrated, so they’re getting an idea what’s going on. It gives residents a sense of empowerment.”
He said he also delivers “all kinds of tips” for deterring crime in a neighborhood.
“The more things you can do to help hedge your bets on not getting burglarized or becoming a victim of a crime, the better,” Matejka said. “If you walk up and look at the front door and see a gate closed, a home security sign, cameras, a dog and as I pull down the street, a Neighborhood Watch sign, maybe I’ll go to a different street.”
To set up such a session, simply email or call Matejka at ejmatejk@lasd.org or (818) 236-4020.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, L.A. County Sheriff’s East Patrol Division Chief Eric Parra encouraged residents to take that step.
“I heard [residents] talking about paying $299 for private patrols; I would advocate that’s a free service the community can do — when you drive down the street, be looking at your street, what’s on your street? Is there a car there that shouldn’t be there? Is something out of place?
“If we can get you to be our eyes and ears, and if we can get the 35 Community Watch groups to 40 and 50, pretty soon everyone is aware.”
And, Motia said, the sooner aware residents can alert authorities to possible criminal activity, the better chance it’s stopped.
“It just seems like [criminals] are getting more bold these days,” she said.
“I think they may think that by the time the police get there, they’ll be in and out. That’s why these Neighborhood Watch groups are good. If someone sees them before they break in and they call while they’re breaking in, maybe they’ll get caught and won’t get away.”
“And otherwise, you create a telephone tree,” she added. “We pretty much know everybody’s pool guy and gardener, but … one time there were two guys sitting in a car across the street I didn’t recognize, so I called the neighbors whose home they were parked in front of and she said she didn’t know them, so I called the sheriff’s department and said I thought it was fishy and they sent someone over right away.”
And there are benefits beyond deterring crime, said Matejka, who will lead subsequent meetings, if requested, on topics ranging from floods to drugs.
“It’s so much better when neighbors get to know each other,” Motia said. “When a neighbor goes on vacation, they can ask you to keep an eye on their house, or help with the trash cans to make it look like they’re home.
“And on my block we look after our elderly neighbors. Say if the power goes out, we helped some of the older neighbors get their generators hooked up. Or if we don’t see those neighbors for a couple of days, we’ll go check on them.
“It’s just so much better.”

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