By Darrell Todd Maurina
Following a series of burglaries and vandalism incidents in the Chaparral Country Club residential subdivision, more than 100 people turned out Tuesday night at the Chaparral clubhouse to learn from Clovis police how to organize a neighborhood watch group.
Meeting organizer Jerry Cass, himself a burglary victim, told residents that they need to set realistic goals.
“We won’t stop crime, but we want to stop it at the country club,” Cass said.
Sgt. Jim Schoeffel of the Clovis Police Department said the key step is for residents to organize themselves.
“You know which vehicles belong in your neighborhood, or hopefully you will,” Schoeffel said. “That’s how we catch the majority of our criminals, someone calling us and saying, ‘This doesn’t look right.’ That’s what we get paid for: to check out things.”
Schoeffel said that while many neighborhood watch groups have been started in Clovis since 1992, about six are still active.
“The reason I know that is we are getting calls from them,” Schoeffel said. “A neighborhood watch group is what you make of it. If you just put up the signs and not much happens, you don’t get the full benefit of the program.”
A few simple steps can make crime less likely, Schoeffel said. If owners record serial numbers, police can enter stolen items into a national database of stolen merchandise so recovered items can be returned to their owners. Locking doors, securing windows, and taking precautionary steps to make a home look “lived in” while away can deter burglars hunting for easy targets. According to a police video, in half of all burglaries the thieves entered an unsecured structure.
Schoeffel said the Chaparral neighborhood’s relatively low crime rate makes it a more inviting target because homeowners may become complacent and not lock doors — especially during summer months when residents may spend more time outside but when crime also increases.
Forcing burglars to break doors and windows not only is a deterrent but also helps police, Schoeffel said.
“It just breaks my heart to work a burglary and find the doors unlocked and they just came in and went out,” Schoeffel said. “I want them to break windows and cut themselves, then I’ve got DNA. I want people to crawl through windows and snag their clothes and leave evidence.”
Schoeffel said the neighborhood watch goal should be to have a block captain for every 30 houses who watches for suspicious activity, helps residents take security precautions, and causes burglars to seek easier targets.
“If you get organized and crime moves to another neighborhood, I’ll be more than happy to set up a neighborhood watch program there, and pretty soon crime will be moving to Texas and we’ll all be better off,” Schoeffel said.
Cass said he appreciated the police presentation and plans to take steps to get a Chaparral neighborhood watch started.
“If you get in a situation like this, you can either pull the wool over your eyes or you can go do something to stop it,” Cass said.