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Cop urges residents to use eyes and ears to take a bite out of crime
by Michelle Zewin
Jan 30, 2008 | 1036 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Alejandro Mendoza, a crime prevention officer at the Sparks Police Department, is trying to set a neighborhood watch in place.
Tribune/Tony Contini Alejandro Mendoza, a crime prevention officer at the Sparks Police Department, is trying to set a neighborhood watch in place.
Sparks Police Crime Prevention Officer Alejandro Mendoza urged Sparks residents Tuesday evening to keep a more vigilant eye on their neighborhoods.

“The more eyes and ears we have the better it is for our community,” Mendoza told a group of seven citizens looking to keep crime and mischievous behavior down in their neighborhoods.

After being idle for years, the Neighborhood Watch program in Sparks is getting a jump start from Mendoza. He said he does not know who used to run the program in the department but knows it has been inactive for several years.

“And there’s still Neighborhood Watch placards in neighborhoods where there really isn’t an organized group anymore,” Mendoza said.

He added that placards are supposed to be removed once a Neighborhood Watch group becomes inactive, but that hasn't happened.

Mendoza said that his desire to get the Neighborhood Watch program in full swing again was not a reaction to any crime or increase thereof.

“This is completely proactive,” he said. “With more eyes and ears we can decrease the amount of activity out there.”

But participating in a Neighborhood Watch group is reactive for some. Sparks resident Martine Carlin decided she wanted to organize a Neighborhood Watch group since the disappearance of Brianna Denison, the 19-year-old woman who disappeared from a friend’s house in Reno on Jan. 20 and remains missing.

“I haven’t had any problems in my neighborhood yet but since Brianna Denison disappeared I’ve been interested in doing something,” Carlin said.

Others have had trouble in their neighborhood and are seeking to put a stop to it. Susan Hogan felt that a Neighborhood Watch group may be just what her neighborhood needs.

“I live near a rental that continues to be a problem,” Hogan said. “It’s just one tenant after another.”

Hogan came with her mother, Caroline Heath, who lives a few blocks away from her.

“It’s been really scary to have a drug house near you,” Heath said referring to her daughter’s neighborhood. “I also had my house broken into not too long ago.”

Hogan said she recently spoke with her neighbors at the Jan. 19 caucus and found that they also had interest in a Neighborhood Watch group. The next step is for her and her mother to go door to door to garner participation. Mendoza advised spreading out the homeowners involved so the perimeter of the watch group would be larger.

To start a Neighborhood Watch group, Mendoza said 20 homeowners or renters are needed. The group must have a leader and have a location that can accommodate PowerPoint presentations. Mendoza advised looking into the libraries or community centers.

“You have to do the footwork and then we’ll provide you with the training,” Mendoza said. “Whenever you guys are ready, I’m ready. My time is your time.”

Once organized, Mendoza will meet with the group for training sessions once a month for 11 months. The sessions will last for about an hour but if a group wants to do longer sessions Mendoza said they can finish their training earlier than 11 months.

In the training sessions, Mendoza said citizens will learn how to spot suspicious activity, how to secure their houses, proper lighting and how to prevent someone from concealing themselves on their property, among many other things.

“They will learn the who, what, where and when,” Mendoza said. “We’re here to provide the training and accommodate them.”

Once training is complete, Neighborhood Watch placards will go up in the neighborhood and the participants will be given stickers for their cars. The group can also choose to schedule further training, including identity theft prevention, methamphetamine awareness and how to identify and address gang problems.

Among the responsibilities of a Neighborhood Watch group is to maintain monthly meetings and share information with other groups and with Sparks police.

“The more feedback you give us, the more help we can give you,” Mendoza said. “I’m enthused and optimistic to get the program up and running again. We can really make a difference.”

For information on starting a Neighborhood Watch group, call Mendoza at 353-2241 ext. 509.

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