By Mary O’KEEFE
“While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many.” ~Lady Bird Johnson
Although the former First Lady was not speaking specifically about Neighborhood Watch Program, at the quote’s heart is neighbor helping neighbor – the program’s foundation.
On March 31, there will be a meeting held at Sparr Heights Community Center for those residents interested in being leaders or captains of the Neighborhood Watch program.
At present, Glendale police guide the Neighborhood Watch meetings, but they hope that will change.
“It is our long term goal to have the neighborhood leaders guide the meetings and discussions,” said Officer Matt Zakarian.
Captains are needed to organize and oversee local neighborhood programs. Leaders are those individuals who educate and update residents in their particular neighborhood.
A watch program can be as simple as leaders going door to door to introduce themselves or more involved by holding regular meetings at their home, Zakarian said.
At the foundation of the program is a unified effort to be proactive against crime. Captains and leaders will be able to communicate crime trends in the area like the recent rash of vehicle burglaries.
“And they have a direct line to me at community policing,” Zakarian added.
This will help get information out to neighbors quickly. Another program advantage is that the more neighbors a person knows, the more they can help. If there is an elderly person in the neighborhood who may need help during an emergency like an earthquake or fire, the leader will know and be able to assist, Zakarian said.
Due to the economy the police are being asked again by the city to find ways to cut. “We need residents’ help more than ever. They are our eyes and ears in the community,” Zakarian added.
Neighborhood Watch leaders and captains are also needed for La Crescenta in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles, said Deputy Jorge Valdivia.
Glendale and the CV Sheriff’s Station work together in the program because the neighborhoods are so close to each other, Valdivia added.
The concept of a neighborhood watch can be traced back to colonial times when organized citizens patrolled in a form of town watch. The modern version of Neighborhood Watch can be traced back to a horrible murder that occurred over 30 years ago.
On March 13, 1964 a 28-year-old girl named Catherine Genovese was repeatedly stabbed and raped just steps from her Queens, New York apartment.
“For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens,” wrote New York Times writer Martin Gansberg in an article published on March 27, 1964.
During the trial several neighbors reported hearing the girl’s screams and seeing a dark figure attacking her. The suspect left the victim three times. The first time bleeding from being stabbed she almost made it to her door. The attacker returned and stabbed her again. He ran away and once again she struggled to reach her apartment, all the time screaming for help. The last time he returned he raped her and then stabbed the final blows. Neighbors reportedly heard the girl’s cry for help but did not call the police for several minutes after the cries were silent.
Out of the tragedy of the young woman’s death and the shame of the apathy of the neighbors, watch programs began forming across the country.
Signs that read Neighborhood Watch are placed in the neighborhood.
“It creates a crime prevention environment,” Zakarian added.
Residents from Glendale, La Crescenta and Montrose who are interested in being a leader or captain can meet at Sparr Heights Community Center at 1613 Glencoe Way at 6 p.m. on March 31. For information on Neighborhood Watch call Officer Matt Zakarian (818) 249-8173.