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Ask A Cop: How Can I Make My Neighborhood Safer?

Have a question for the Sheriff's Office? Let us know.

Is there anything you have ever wanted to know from the police department? Well, this is your chance to ask. 

Patch has always strived to bring its readers all types of information and keep them updated on what is happening in their communities. It is with that in mind that we bring you our newest column, “Ask A Cop.” We will be teaming up with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies from around the county to answer your questions.

Whether you have a question about certain laws and how they might affect you, your family or friends or how to stay safe in certain situations, we want you to ask them. Every week we will run one question and answer. To submit a question, email Shannon.burkey@patch.com.

Question:

My neighbors were burglarized but I didn't even notice. How can I be more vigilant about crime in my neighborhood?

Answer:

Sheriff's deputy April Skalland had a lot of good information about how to make your neighborhood safer.

First on her list was knowing your neighbors. 

“I think a lot of time nowadays people don’t know who their neighbors are," Skalland said. “Obviously the best thing to know is who’s in your neighborhood, who belongs where."

If you need help with that, contact the Sheriff's Office sub-station in your part of the county (see the list of offices and phone numbers here) or your local police department. A law enforcement officer can meet with you about how to get involved with Neighborhood Watch in your area or start your own group, if there isn't one already.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Most burglaries happen during the day, so if you're home when most people are away for work or school keep an eye out for your neighbors.
  • Don't be a target. Lock your car, close your windows, make your house look occupied even when it isn't and don't keep valuables (purses, electronics, jewelry, cash) where would-be thieves could see it.
  • Ask the Sheriff's Office to check on your house while you're on vacation. Here's the form to request a Vacation Check.
  • Take part in National Night Out on Aug. 7. There are events throughout the county where you can meet your neighbors and get to know the law enforcement officers who patrol your neighborhood.
  • Of course, call 9-1-1 if you see people prowling or peering into parked cars. 

National Night Out celebrations will be held in five locations:

  • Live Oak & Soquel, from 6-8 p.m. at Shoreline Middle School, 855 17th Ave., Live Oak. Call 464-6230.
  • Aptos, from 5-8 p.m. at Twin Lakes Church, 2701 Cabrillo College Dr., Aptos. Call 662-0690.
  • Watsonville, from 4-8 p.m. at Pinto Lake County Park, 757 Green Valley Rd., Watsonville. Call 763-4420.
  • San Lorenzo Valley, from 6-9 p.m. at the Sheriff's Sevice Center, 6059 Hwy. 9, Felton. Call 461-7400.
  • Summit Area, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Redwood Estates Pavilion,21450 Madrone Dr., Los Gatos. Call 464-6230.
Cathy P. July 24, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Absolutely know your neighbors and be on the lookout for anyone you've never seen before. I'd add a couple things to the list that has worked for my neighborhood: 1) improve the lighting. Ask your City Council person to find out about installing brighter street lights & make sure to report burned out streetlights. Also, try installing those solar yard lights that stay on all night. 2) Remove all graffiti immediately. Keep a spray can of that "goop" and make it YOUR JOB to remove any you see. There's one poor guy doing graffiti removal for the entire city, I'd hate his job! 3) and lastly -and the most simple- plant some flowers and keep up your yard. Bad guys perceive well cared-for neighborhoods as watched neighborhoods. Just my 2 cents ...
David H. Perez July 25, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Cathy P. has some good ideas. On the street where I live, a peculiar thing occurs on a regular basis. Cars pull over at all hours of the day or night, usually occupied by single drivers, and sit for a considerable period of time with no apparent business on our street. Being a retired guy who is usually home and always on guard (and who worked in the criminal justice field), I go outside and make it obvious that I am watching them. Sometimes they leave at that point. When the car continues to stay put for a protracted period of time, I make myself obvious by bringing my digital camera outside and take pictures of various angles of the car, including the license plate. 9 times out of 10, the person drives away. I have a huge library of car photos incase something goes down in my neighborhood.
Watzon McWats July 25, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Watsonville also has a graffiti cleanup hotline. Said graffiti cleanup guy usually responds within a couple of days and does excellent work. You can look up the hotline phone number on the city website.
Watzon McWats July 25, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Happens in my neighborhood too. I've seen unfamiliar people sit for up to four hours in their car and then drive off. So odd. Oftentimes they'll dump a few fast food wrappers, cigarette buts, or even alcohol samplers in the street before driving off. One particularly common spot for four wheeled lurkers adjacent to my neighbors side yard is often littered with such trash. I like your style with the digital photos!
Cathy P. July 25, 2012 at 02:56 PM
@Watzon McWats: yes, we have those fine upstanding citizen types leave their garbage behind in our neighborhood too, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, cigarette butts, beer cans; they even break glass beer bottles in the middle of the street for innocent drivers to run over. We've had our house paint-balled in the middle of the night too. The worst incident was the time I was unloading groceries from the trunk of my car in my own driveway one afternoon when a Honda sedan with 4 young males inside drove by, slowed down and the passenger in the back seat threw a large orange soda (from McDonald's) at me. Fortunately, it missed me (and I'm quite a large target, lol) but messed up my car pretty well. I just don't understand this stuff!

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