Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | 3:29 p.m.
Scott Telford will never forget the burglary that occurred at his Desert Shores home in early January.
After breaking a window to gain entry when no one was home, burglars brought a car in the garage. Thousands of dollars worth of electronics and jewelry was stolen, Telford said, and his family is still recovering.
"They opened up every drawer in the house and dumped it on the floor," he said.
Telford was one of several local residents who attended a neighborhood watch meeting Feb. 9 at Metro's Northwest Area Command.
The goal of neighborhood watch programs is to encourage people to be more protective of their property and homes, said Kathy Perkins, crime prevention specialist at Metro's Northwest Area Command.
"It's important for people to understand that a neighborhood watch is coordinated by homeowners with the voluntary participation of their neighbors," she said.
Perkins, who oversees about 650 neighborhood watch programs, said the most common problems in the northwest area are residential burglaries, vehicle break-ins, stolen cars and robberies.
Trespassing is also a common irritant, she said, and one that can never be stopped completely. In trespassing situations at community pools or tennis courts, "no trespassing" signs must be posted in order for someone to be cited.
"Parks are a lovely amenity, but they do attract problems," Perkins said. "We're noticing a lot of communities with neighborhood parks are not provided with any resources on how to police those parks, especially regarding bathrooms or darkened areas."
Most of the incidents reported at parks involve young adults or teenagers, Perkins said, and she encouraged homeowner associations to ensure parks have proper signage and adequate lighting.
"People also carry a lot of electronics when they're out jogging or walking," she said. "If you're in a public park, take some safety precautions so you're not robbed."
Perkins stressed that just because a community is gated doesn't mean it has less crime.
"If you start a neighborhood watch in a gated community, pretend that gate is not even there and encourage the best home security possible," she said.
Homeowners need to make sure they don't leave their garage doors open or leave garage door openers in their cars, Perkins said.
"You might as well hang your keys on the antenna. It's the same thing," she said.
The key to an effective neighborhood watch program is participation and communication, Perkins said.
The most effective neighborhood watch programs involve between 10 and 30 homes and renters can also participate, she said. Each neighborhood watch program appoints its own block captain, who schedules meetings and serves as the main contact with local law enforcement.
Many neighborhood watches communicate through e-mail, but Perkins said it's important for each group to hold meetings in-person.
"Once you know each other, you're more at-ease and not afraid to call one another," she said.
Metro's northwest coverage area begins at Charleston Boulevard and stretches west of the 215 Beltway, east to Decatur Boulevard and north to the Kyle Canyon Road entrance.
Residents who are interested in starting a neighborhood watch program in the northwest area can contact Kathy Perkins at 828-4305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Contact information for Kathy Perkins was changed to correct an error.