Anita and Steve Thomas have lived in the Westmont area of Westminster going on 50 years now.
“Umpteen years ago, we couldn’t have asked to have moved into a better neighborhood,” said Anita, who was with her husband mingling with other neighbors at the Neighborhood Watch Community Event at Bolsa Chica Park on April 29.
The event – the first of its kind for the Sol Vista-area Neighborhood Watch – was complete with burgers and hotdogs (grilled up by Westminster Police Commander Cameron Knauerhaze), visits from local Orange County Fire Authority firefighters and WPD Animal Control, WPD Bike Patrol safety presentations for kids, and an assortment of vendor tents, ranging from Damsel In Defense pepper spray and stun gun company geared toward women to Ring, a motion-activated camera and two-way audio home security system.
The goal of the Neighborhood Watch and events like these is to open communication among neighbors to promote security in the area. And WPD has played a large role in that.
“We need to embrace every opportunity available in the private and public sector to help fight crime,” said Knauerhaze. “Community partnerships are the bread and butter of our success. We owe our neighborhoods our 100-percent commitment to strengthening their Neighborhood Watch effort.”
Neighborhood Watch organizer Missi Hernandez said she got the program going about three years ago, and since then, the group has put together a Christmas on Cornell event, with a great turnout, and now meets four times a year. She anticipated about 200 neighbors at this event.
“We’ve had 60 to 100 people at every meeting for the last three years,” she said. “We’re just out to protect each other and bring community back.”
Part of that has involved cultivating a genuine partnership with WPD, and vice versa.
“They get to know us,” she said.
The result? A notable drop in criminal activity – including a string of car burglaries that had been taking place in Sol Vista.
“If you see anything out of the ordinary, you usually will report it,” said Anita. “It’s neighbors looking out for one another, all working together as one big team.”
The security-minded vendors at the event is another way the Neighborhood Watch and agency are trying to help reduce crime.
Representatives from Ring were onsite offering discounts to residents who purchased their motion-activated camera and audio system that day. The system allows residents to see visitors (or intruders), with the added function of being able to actually speak to the person on the other side of the door – whether the resident is home or not. The company is teaming up with Neighborhood Watch and the WPD to get more of these systems in residents’ homes.
Another aspect of safety covered at the event was through WPD’s Bike Patrol safety demos – and by giving away some free bicycle helmets. The officers set up patterns with cones that they could ride through with the children while teaching them about safety.
Gang Det. Jerad Kent, who is on Bike Patrol and also used to live in the neighborhood, said the kids are “eager to learn and eager to have fun.”
He said events like these can help reduce crime by bringing residents together and teaching them to watch out for each other.
“It brings neighbors together, opens communication between them,” he said. “When you have events like these … you meet neighbors down the street.”