Neighborhood Watch Handbook

Introduction

Graffiti has become a blight throughout many cities. It is destructive and has cost some cities millions of dollars in clean-up efforts. This is money wasted. This money should have been used to put additional police officers on the street, or provide programs for the youth and elderly of these cities. Even spending this amount of money is not keeping up with a problem that is getting worse by the day.

The problem is larger than once thought. We now know that graffiti is having the following impacts:
» It is a blight on both the business and residential economy. It has caused businesses and people to reconsider moving to cities with a graffiti problem.
» It projects an extremely negative community image outside the boundaries of a city with a graffiti problem.
» It negatively impacts economic development within a city. This costs jobs.
» It drains meager city financial resources needed for other programs.

It drastically lowers home values, as much as 25%, in areas that have a graffiti problem.

The social reasons for this plague of vandalism are many. This document will not even attempt to explain, address, or solve these issues. It will, however, explain how several people in some city neighborhoods have controlled the problem. As a side benefit, crime in these neighborhoods has been dramatically reduced.

The actions, recommendations, examples, and statements contained on the following pages are offered by the members of a very successful and active. Neighborhood Watch Program within the City of Oxnard. The explanations and techniques used were developed over a two year period. They have proven extremely effective only when employed by neighbors working with neighbors. They will absolutely fail if neighborhood people do not get involved.

THIS PROGRAM IS NOT OFFICIALLY SPONSORED OR ENDORSED BY THE CITY OF OXNARD. It was conceived and executed by neighborhood people taking control of the neighborhood environment in which they live.

Statement

If you are reading this document, you are probably concerned about a growing problem in the area in which you live. The other possibility is that you see a problem developing and you want something done to stop the blight from happening in your city and neighborhood. It is also possible that it has already happened and you want the problem resolved.

If you expect your city to do something, or if you expect the under manned, under budgeted, Police Department to do something about it STOP READING THIS DOCUMENT! and please pass it on to someone who will get personally involved.

The city would love to offer more help, but it can't. There is not enough money, police, or city Staff to address a city wide problem of this magnitude.

It has been our experience that the police department, and all other city departments, will help as much as possible. This help can be considerable if you establish contacts and work with the people that run the system.

This is not to say that you need to or should ask the City for permission to establish a Neighborhood Watch Patrol in your area. The first thing you need to do is decide that YOU want to do something. Once that has been established, you can move forward.

The following page will outline some suggestions on how to get started. The recommendations and suggestions are just that, suggestions. We do not intend to say that this is the only way a watch program will work. Each neighborhood is different and has different problems and requirements. Use what you can and adapt the techniques to fit your own neighborhoods circumstances.

The best source of neighborhood coordination should be your local Inter Neighborhood Council (INCC). Locate your neighborhood INCC chairperson and ask for help in distributing information to the neighborhood about what you are going to do. If your neighborhood INCC is not active, contact your Community Relations Officer about holding a meeting and getting your neighborhood council active.

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List of Suggestions

(in no particular order)
» Understand from the very beginning that you must be organized to be effective, and that you must stay organized.
» Identify 2 or 3 of your neighbors that are willing to get involved.
» Hold a meeting in someone's home and determine if a problem exists. If it's bad enough, ask yourselves if an active neighborhood watch program is something that each of you are willing to get involved with.
» Do a detailed survey your neighborhood. Make notes about how serious the problem is and where your first attentions should be focused.
» Contact the police department and find out the name of your beat coordinator. This is a police officer that is responsible for your area of the city. Contact your beat coordinator and ask if he or she will attend your next meeting.
» At your next meeting, introduce yourself and the other neighbors in the program. Explain to the officer what you intend to do. Ask him to be aware that you intend to actively patrol the streets in the neighborhood, on foot and in cars. Explain that you will be in the area during late hours and that you are looking for graffiti artists and vandals.
» Provide a list of names and addresses of your patrollers to the beat coordinator.
» Organize your patrol to work specific hours on defined days.
» Determine if anyone has two-way radios ("walkie-talkies") or citizen band radios that could be used by the Watch Patrol until more permanent equipment can be secured. Find out if anyone has a portable cellular phone that can be used. This is not necessary but it can be helpful.
» Find out if any members of the group, or any of your neighbors, have a scanner and can listen to the police frequencies. These units are not expensive and are available from Radio Shack and many other sources.
» Scanners can usually be programmed to also listen to the frequencies of any walkie-talkie equipment you may elect to use. One person monitoring at home, near a phone, can act as your contact to the police department.
» Make up a letter asking for volunteers. Deliver a copy to each home in the neighborhood area you intend to patrol.
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You should know that you have the power to arrest, nearly the same as a police officer. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO MAKE AN ARREST. An officer responding to a call that you have someone detained, will not and can not arrest the vandals. He is unable to effect the arrest because he did not see the crime or misdemeanor take place with his own eyes.

ONLY YOU CAN MAKE THE COMPLAINT. If you are unwilling to identify the painter, if you are unwilling to make a complaint and show up in court, the officer will turn the painter loose to do it again. This is the only method that will stop the problem.

If caught in the act, watch for the painter to throw his spray paint can or marker away. Watch for TAGGING CREWS in cars that are strange to your neighborhood Copy down the license numbers, get a description, and keep your notes. Most taggers will not be from your area.

Before you paint it out, take photos of all older graffiti. You should also take pictures of all new graffiti. If you are fortunate enough to catch a painter in the act, photos can often help police connect his TAG with other markings he may have made in other parts of the city. DO NOT USE A POLAROID OR VIDEO TAPE as they are not easily reproduced and you may need two copies.

Pictures will help you validate a claim to any reward money that may be due you from the city's graffiti reward program.

When you first start your patrol, you should remove or paint out all graffiti in your area. Removal of marker from signs, doors, and other flat surfaces can usually be accomplished with lacquer thinner, or other products.

The City will provide paint to cover graffiti in alleys and on walls. The City will also send a crew to sandblast graffiti from walls that face a street. They will not remove markings from walls in alleys.

Once removed, your most important task is to keep it off. Remove or paint out new graffiti as soon as it happens. This can't be stressed to strongly. Paint it out as soon as you see it. This will cause taggers to lock for a place where their tag will stay on the wall for a longer period of time. When an area has graffiti, it attracts more of the same. Same graffiti is actually a challenge to other groups to see who can get their TAG on walls more often.

Graffiti comes in two types, "Gang Markings" and "Tagging". Try and learn the difference. Copy down the names of the taggers that get painted or "TAGGED" in your area.

Watch the activities of the youth in your neighborhood, particularly when walking the streets or riding bikes in city parks after school and after dark. This is when most of the damage takes place. Try and identify neighborhood youths that may be involved in this activity. If you spot them doing something, let them know that you know who they are.

Watch for youths dressed in all dark clothing, pants and jackets. Watch the activities of youths in black jackets with "Raiders" insignia on the back. Watch for young people carrying their jackets, this method is used to not show the insignia on the back. Watch for school bags, back packs, and bulges under jackets. Jackets are turned INSIDE OUT, to hide insignia and change appearance of person you saw TAG.

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Recommendations and Suggested Rules to Observe During Patrol

It is recommended that you carry the minimum of a flashlight and note pad and pen with you. This can be used to write down descriptions of cars, people, license numbers, and notes about the time and things you see happen. You might want to refer to this information at a later time.

If you don't have one, you might want to consider getting a good spotlight. The type you plug into your cars cigarette lighter is best. A spotlight is very useful in lighting up dark areas in a park, or the alleys you will patrol. In most cases, shining a light on persons that may be up to no good is all that is required to cause them to move on.

After starting a shift, patrol all the walls in your neighborhood that you know get hit and sprayed with paint. This is necessary so that you will be able to tell the police, in case you catch one of these vandals, that the wall was clean when you started your shift. Otherwise, the police will not arrest the offender and you will not be able to testify that the markings on the wall are fresh and new.

It is recommended that you don't stay in one spot too long. You should try and move your location about every 15 minutes. Patrol throughout the neighborhood, or neighborhoods, you have selected to watch. When checking a city park or local school, shine your spotlight into the dark places. Remember, city parks close at 10:00 p.m.

If for some reason you call the police for help, do not follow them or park anywhere near them. They may not know who you are and may view you as a threat. Even if they know who you are, and there is any real trouble, you would just become one more person that would need protection.

Do not follow suspicious vehicles. Your task is to observe, record, and report. Do not call the police needlessly. You should only call when you observe something suspicious or actually see something happen.

Do not approach suspicious vehicles, particularly if occupied. If possible get a good description of the car, its color, and its license number.

Do not drive through your neighborhood with your lights out. This has caused false reports to the police of "Car Casing The Neighborhood".

Do not carry any type of weapon when on patrol. That is not why you are out on patrol and we don't want anyone injured for any reason. In an emergency, a heavy duty flashlight could be used as a defensive device.

Your neighborhood watch should attempt to obtain some two-way radios. Citizens Band type radios can be used effectively but, you may get interference on the air from people wanting to know what you are doing. You may want to consider obtaining used walkie talkies that use the business bands. Advice on how and where these may be obtained from Radio Shack stores.

If you are on a two person shift, feel free to use the radios to stay in contact with each other, or to call for help. Your patrol's frequencies should be monitored at home by watch members who have scanners and who are not on patrol.

If you are on a one person shift and need help, call the person monitoring for help. Give your location. Your correct location is critical if the help you want is to arrive at the proper place.

Please become familiar with the street names in the areas you patrol. You should also become familiar with what directions the streets run (North, South, East, and West).

You should get, or draw, a street map of the area. Distribute a copy to all members of your patrol.

Your neighborhood watch should determine if any member, or a neighborhood resident, has a hand-held cellular phone. This phone could be loaned at night for the use and safety of members of the watch.

Any phone loaned to the watch should not be used for personal calls for any reason. Calls placed from this type of phone are expensive.

The phone should have an instruction card that explains how to use it. Please read the instructions and become familiar with how to use it. If you have an emergency, and need the police, you won't have time to try and figure it out.

Because of the limited amount of equipment you may have available in the beginning, radios and phones should be controlled by one responsible member of the neighborhood watch patrol. Watch members should know where equipment can be picked up and dropped off, before and after a shift. A second person should take responsibility if the designated person is out of town or unavailable.

Please don't forget to return the radios, and/or phone. If you don't recharge the batteries, the equipment won't be usable for the next shift. Please report any equipment problems you have to your watch coordinators.

All members of a Neighborhood Watch Patrol should have and wear white ball caps. The police know to look for the white hats when responding to a call for assistance. Have it on your head when out on foot or while in the neighborhood in the dark. The police and other patrol members will know who you are.

Please, no drinking of alcohol while on patrol. Please do not patrol if you have been drinking.

The Neighborhood Patrol Coordinators should welcome any suggestions that would make the patrol more effective, or safer for the patrollers. Always feel free to make any comments that you think will help.

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OXNARD NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS
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OXNARD NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH CONTACTS
Beat 11
» Cabrillo area
Martin Remmen (985-6902)
Mike Turek (988-9827)
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Herb Smith (983-1540)
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Roger Pariseau (377-8879)
Beat 12
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Jan Paxton (983-3973)
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Beat 21
» Oxnard Shores area
Phyllis Villareal (984-2148)
Beat 22
» Hobson Park West area
Will Coulon (487-3154)
Beat 31
» Rose Park area
Manuel Cano (485-6719)
Beat 32
» Nothing established
Beat 41
» Blackstock South area
Ed Ellis (486-9197)
Beat 42
» Southwinds area
Ulysses Reyes (487-1341)
 
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