Wednesday’s county overview of the program provided media and one commissioner details on how Neighborhood Watch operates and can be tailored to the residents’ wants and needs.
Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputies Jim Kocijanski and Teresa Aquila are spearheading the project.
“My golden rule is that you are our eyes and ears,” Aquila said
The North Valleys Neighborhood Watch, which Aquila oversees, has had a successful increase in growth. It now involves 102 members who meet every month.
The program has received a positive response from residents. John Riley, a resident from Silver Knolls, was at the meeting to describe his neighborhood’s patrol habits.
“We cruise twice a day, sometimes three, between 11 and 15 miles,” Riley said. “We’ll see some activity after a few cruises, people coming along and such.”
Reno Police Department Officer Donna Robinson said neighbors should be aware of solicitors without having the proper licensing coming to their doors, because they may be burglars posing as solicitors.
“If they’re Girl Scouts and they’re selling cookies and a parent is with them, they’re probably going to homes where they know the neighbors,” Robinson said. “But solicitors must always show you a business license.”
Kocijanski, whose has had his residence burglarized, said he was motivated to encourage homeowners to help each other take notice of suspicious activity that happens with their neighbors.
“You have to be proactive about it,” he said. “There are so many things you can do (to deter crime).”
He suggested using MarKitAll, a kit that allows residents to engrave their valuables. Kocijanski recommended numbers that are easy for the homeowner to recognize to help police identify stolen property. He advised against using any number that would give burglars more information, such as Social Security numbers.
“Don’t give them something to follow up on,” Kocijanski said.
Signage, dogs and motion lights are also useful tools to deter potential criminals.
Although only a handful of people appeared at Wednesday’s meeting, County commissioner Bonnie Weber took to heart the potential of implementing Neighborhood Watch in her district, which includes portions of Reno, Sparks and the North Valleys.
“How can I help you all turn people on to this concept?” she asked the deputies. “Tonight there aren’t that many people here. Why weren’t people told?”
The deputies replied that soliciting involvement and input would be a matter of committing to more publicity through the media and word-of-mouth.
Weber also raised other concerns, such as finding a neutral meeting place. Kocijanski and Aquila advised against meeting in homes for the sake of protection and to make the meetings more inviting for other residents.
Weber said she would like to get local churches involved as meeting places to serve as a neutral location and because it might be less expensive than renting a meeting hall. She hopes to help Kocijanski, Aquila and Robinson form a committee to help residents who want to start a Neighborhood Watch program.
Aquila reminded people that Neighborhood Watch was meant to help local law enforcement agencies who may not always be able to know about everything on their own.
“By us staying involved at the county level (with the program), we stay energized,” Aquila said.
Robinson added that homeowners often forget that their residential areas aren’t always as safe as they seem.
“We get complacent,” Robinson. “We get into this mindset and think, ‘I’m safe,’ but then all of a sudden, bam! Something happens, like in the Brianna Denison case, and we think, ‘Oh, my god, look at what happened with this beautiful person.
“We have the ability to get involved,” Robinson said. “It’s a work in progress.”
For more information about Neighborhood Watch, contact Kocijanski at 861-3899.
Some residents take the initiative in their communities.
No neighborhood is safe. Maureen King knows — her home in Virginia was ransacked and robbed.
“You feel so violated,” said the former sheriff’s deputy and emergency dispatcher from Virginia. “They went from room to room taking heirloom jewelry and cash.”
The Galena Estates resident is working to protect her present community from crooks. A rash of burglary attempts — some successful — have made an impact. Daily e-mails request information on King’s Neighborhood Watch program and how to get involved. Since January, monthly meetings have grown from eight residents to 30, King said.
“I tried this (unsucessfully) a year ago then bingo! Things started happening,” she said. “People are starting to see this as fun and it brings neighbors together. They’re getting to know each other.”
King has posted Neighborhood Watch warning signs — some in both Spanish and English — and patrols the community keeping an eye on unoccupied homes. She encourages residents walking their dogs to carry notebooks and record suspicious activity, such as cars without plates and unknown drivers possibly casing homes.
“The basic concept is the sheriff’s department can only do so much,” King said. “It’s up to us to help ourselves, but if you see something out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to call it in. “
King thinks that high-dollar alarm systems give a false sense of security, especially during power outages not uncommon in the isolated community. She stresses well-secured windows and doors and spotlights triggered by motion detectors. She also thinks dogs are one of the best alarm systems.
“Having (dogs) saved me from a horrible experience,” King said. One night at 3 a.m., her dogs “went nuts” and she heard a scraping noise at one of the doors. King slammed doors and turned on all the lights but didn’t see anyone.
“After that, I thought it was time to activate the neighborhood,” she said.
Silver Knolls resident John Reilly said crime has gone down in his neighborhood since Neighborhood Watch patrols were organized. Reilly said he personally saw two men dressed in black knock on a door then go into the yard. When law enforcement arrived, the men claimed they were missionaries.
“We are the eyes and ears of the sheriff’s department,” said Reilly. “You have to get involved and know your neighbors.”