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The Block Watch meeting for the Rio Crossing community was hosted by Avondale Police Department January 10, 2017 at 7pm in the Mohave Room of the Avondale Civic Center. Even though only four Rio Crossing residents attended, it was an informative meeting.

Kristina Armstrong was the initial presenter, as the Avondale Police Department Community Services Supervisor. She briefly described the notion of today’s Block Watch program as compared to the previous Neighborhood Watch concept, and how it’s a lot easier to get a few neighbors to watch out for each other, as opposed to having a whole neighborhood trying to police itself vigilante-style. She soon turned the meeting over to Officer Long, who gave us an impressive list of his various extra duties and expertise at Avondale PD.

Both Officer Long and Katrina spoke about ways of reducing crime, but were quick to point out that “there’s crime in every neighborhood, even those in gated communities.” The goal, they said, was to make your house a more risky place for a burglar to hit, by leaving lights on outside at night, always closing and locking your garage doors, car doors, and house doors. Many thieves, they said, are opportunists, and it helps to just make them have to work hard to take something. Don’t leave valuables in your unlocked car; don’t leave your garage door open with valuable things (especially tools) out in the open.

They talked about one Avondale program called “Lock It, Hide It, Keep It”, which has three simple rules for keeping your belongings safe:

  • Lock It: If you’re going to put your belongings in something – a car, a garage, a shed – lock it up.  For a car, never leave your car unlocked – not even for a minute!  For your garage, always close the door if you are not going to be in the garage, as it only takes a second for someone to walk by, see something, and grab it.
  • Hide It: If you’re going to put your belongings in something that people can see into – again, a car or a garage, for example – hide it somehow. In your car, cover it up, put it under the seat or in the trunk. In your garage, put it in a storage cabinet, a box, or somewhere not directly visible.
  • Keep It:  It is best to take any valuable items with you – for example, if you are going to leave your car in a parking lot.  Ladies especially: don’t leave your purse in the car with valuables inside!

So after talking about keeping you and your belongings safe, the topic turned to working together with your neighbors. Katrina spoke briefly about the difference between the old-school “Neighborhood Watch”, which a lot of people seem to associate with roaming the streets with flashlights at night vigilante-style, looking for people with bad intentions – and the new way of thinking with the Block Watch program, where the focus is on knowing your neighbors, knowing what sort of activity is unusual, and always reporting anything unusual to the police – and letting them investigate and handle any issues.

She mentioned that some Block Watch groups get together once a quarter and have a barbeque or some sort of get-together, but many of them just chat occasionally via Email – but still make the effort to get to know each other enough to be comfortable and knowledgeable enough to call the police when something doesn’t look right.

Katrina and Office Long both chimed in with a very illustrative story. A police patrol car rolls through a neighborhood in Arizona and sees a pool guy’s truck parked in one of your neighbor’s driveway. Hey, it’s Arizona, where many houses on every block have a swimming pool, and the officer thinks nothing of it. You, on the other hand, take a look out your window and see the pool guy in your neighbor’s yard and immediately know something isn’t right – that neighbor doesn’t have a pool! You call 911 (because something unusual is in progress) and an office comes out and catches a burglary in progress.

Their suggestion is to always call if you see something that’s truly suspicious or very unusual. And for any situation in progress, dial 911. If there is something that has happened, like you notice someone has removed the light bulbs from the lights outside your garage, call the Avondale Non-Emergency number at (623)333-7001. (Put that number in your cell phone!)

Anything actively happening – dial 911.

Anything over and done – call (623) 333-7001.

You shouldn’t hesitate to call either number. If you’re unsure whether what you see really warrants a call… you should call!

Calling and having a patrol car drive by and check things out does a couple of things for us as a community:

  • It lets your neighbors know you’re helping to look out for them… and they’ll probably look out for you in return.
  • It lets “strangers with bad intentions” wandering through our neighborhood know that we’re more likely to call if we see anything unusual… and many of them will move on to another neighborhood that isn’t watching as close.
  • As the call volume picks up in our neighborhood, the police will drive through our neighborhood more often on routine patrol.
  • Increased call volume also helps the police department by letting them show the city council that more police are needed to continue to maintain their presence in the many Avondale communities.

Certainly don’t call “just to get the call volume up”, but if you think something suspicious is happening, don’t hesitate – call!

SlidingWindowLockA more specific suggestion relating to security was to put these simple locking devices on your windows – especially on the ground floor.  Burglars who are brave enough to break windows won’t climb through a broken window – they’ll attempt to reach in and unlock the window before climbing through.  If these are in place, they might easily find the unlocking mechanism built into your window (after all, it’s probably the same mechanism for every window in our neighborhood!), but if they unlock the window and it still won’t open, they likely won’t stop to try and locate these and try to un-do them.  And they’re not that expensive.  Amazon has a 10-pack for around $8 here.

Stay safe and alert out there!

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