Friday, January 30, 2009

News from our neighbors to the northeast

Thank you to Ed for sharing the following announcement, which came across the Claremont e-alert list earlier today:

Possible Homicide (Claremont)

On Friday January 30, 2009 at about 11:15 a.m., officers responded to a residence in the 700 block W. Arrow Hwy. to check on the welfare of the resident after the resident's employer reported that he did not show up for work. Responding officers found inside the residence a deceased male adult, possibly the resident, who appears to be in his 50's or 60's; identification is pending. The cause of death is not yet determined, but does not appear to be natural, accidental, or self inflicted. Further details regarding the possible cause of death will remain undisclosed until further investigation can be conducted.

PART IV: NW Group Not the Only Option

A while back (I guess it could not have been that long ago since this blog is barely two weeks old), reader Anduhrew posted a comment inquiring about the effort involved in creating and sustaining NW groups. His post prompted a four-part reflection on the issue. Today's post, which is the fourth in the series, sits a bit askew from the others in that it contemplates non-NW options for achieving one goal of the NW program: community building.

Sure, Neighborhood Watch groups can be effective mechanisms for biting crime and building community. But, plenty of other strategies exist for achieving these ends. For example, check out How to Build Community . Notice how small many of these things really are; small, but significant.

If you can't join forces with an existing NW group (see Part I), don't have the energy to start a new group (see Part II), or worry about the time involved in sustaining a watch group (see Part III), you can still create -- and benefit from -- community connectedness.

What ideas do you have for building community? Post your ideas. Try out the ideas posted by others. Share your reflections.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If this house is a rockin'...

This just in from Web Watch (to register for Web Watch, visit this link)...

"The Pomona City Council made several changes to an ordinance that deals with loud and disturbing parties and music. These changes became effective on December 17, 2008. The Pomona Police Department will be enforcing these changes and will be issuing a citation to persons responsible for the loud and disturbing party. Until now, residents could host loud parties just about as often as they wanted with little or no consequence, other than angry neighbors. The City of Pomona recognizes these unsafe parties as a threat to the public peace, health, safety, and general welfare of the city.

"Music or any other type of disturbance that's plainly audible more than 50 feet from its source, between the hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am, will be a violation. A disturbance between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 pm that's plainly audible from 150 feet will also be a violation. The person responsible for the party can expect to be issued a citation for a violation of this noise ordinance. The violation will be filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

"These loud party and music calls are more prevalent on Friday and Saturday nights and continue into the early morning hours. The Police Department receives several calls-for-service to these disturbing parties, and this becomes a drain on the Pomona Police Department's resources. Other violations committed by partygoers, and associated with these loud parties are; littering of alcohol containers, urinating in public, parking violations, physical altercations, public intoxication, and drunk driving. The City of Pomona would like to urge anyone planning a large party to seek a safe and suitable venue. Please keep your neighbors in mind before you have a large party at your home.

"Cpl. D. Johnson"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PART III: Time Involved in Organizing a NW Group

I look forward to comparing notes with others about the time involved in organizing -- sustaining, really -- NW groups. Our group began meeting approximately 3 years ago. We recently (finally!) worked out a system that I hope will make it a bit easier to keep the watch group rolling.

Before I tell you what we're doing now, let me tell you how we operated previously. In the past, the meetings tended to rather reactive -- if something was happening in the neighborhood, we quickly cobbled together fliers, pleaded with our Crime Prevention Specialist to put in a last-minute request an officer for the meeting, and hoped people would show up. Although attendance was spotty, the meetings usually turned out pretty good -- spirited conversations, sharing of information, etc.

The meetings would typically end with a question: "Who is willing to organize the next meeting?" After a minute or so of pleading ("Really, it is important we all share responsibility for our watch group") and attempts to avoid eye contact, somebody would eventually volunteer. The plan was always to get together "sometime within the next month."

Months would roll by; urban tumble weeds (i.e., plastic grocery bags), rather than NW fliers, arrived on the stoop. Eventually, neighbors would start asking me, "Hey, when is the next meeting?" I'd reply, "So and so said he'd organize the next one; I'll touch base with him to see if he's had a chance to set a date." Still, no meeting. Eventually, there would be another "event" in the neighborhood. Stew and I, feeling irritated that the organizing responsibilities were again falling on our shoulders, would whip up some fliers, beginning the cycle anew.

Alas, this reactive model took a lot of emotional energy and time. We needed a better approach.

Here's the current model: We meet the last Saturday of every month at 3:00 PM. The location changes depending on the weather (if it is nice, we meet in the park) and the willingness of neighbors to host. Prior to the meeting, we ask our Crime Prevention Specialist to prepare fliers for the next meeting. Then, at the end of the meeting, we ask for volunteers to simply distribute the fliers for the following meeting; given the fliers are already prepared, we can hand them over "on the spot."

We recently acquired bright yellow lawn signs that say, "Neighborhood Watch Saturday at 3:00." Whoever has a sign places it in their yard the Sunday before the meeting, providing both a reminder to participants and a signal to ne'erdowells that we are an active group.

Now, here is what it takes to organize a meeting:

1. An e-mail to the Crime Prevention Unit to request fliers and officer visits

2. A call to remind neighbors to put out their yellow signs and/or distribute fliers

3. Calls to any guest presenters to coordinate their visit

4. It seems a call to remind people to take down the yellow signs may also be needed (yup, some of the signs from last week's meeting are still out)

So far, I'm finding this new model much more humane than the old. We've got built-in redundancy in the advertisement efforts (a stable meeting time, fliers, multiple yard signs), so if somebody drops the ball on a given month, the chances are good at least a few people will nevertheless show up to the meeting.; in other words, Stew and I don't need to find more time in our packed schedules to do tasks other people said they would do. We have more lead time now for coordinating our efforts with the police department and lining up interesting and relevant guests; having lead time really helps our Crime Prevention Specialist support the group's efforts.

And, most importantly, this new model makes it easier for everyone to play a role in sustaining the group.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let there Be Light

Some time ago, a big ol' tow truck ran into a street light located along the west edge of Garfield Park. Neighbors noticed; the city did not. Well, that's probably not entirely true. Someone in the city must have noticed, because the ruined street light was a removed, and an orange and white thingamijig (I'm sure there's a more formal term) stood straddling the light's base.

In swoops NW. A neighbor brought the missing light to the attention of a Councilperson Paula Lantz, a regular attendee at the meetings. She did a little investigating. Come to find out, a number of sights in her district were awaiting replacement lights. Lantz worked with the appropriate city departments to order replacement lights and stayed abreast of the project's progress.

And now, I am very pleased to announce Garfield Park is home to one of these new lights. Thank you, dear neighbor, for thinking to bring this issue to the attention of our Councilperson. And thank you, Paula Lantz, for your work on our behalf.

Let there be light!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ice Cream Trucks

I would like to talk about something that came up in the last watch meeting: Ice Cream Trucks.

I always enjoyed that an ice cream truck came by almost every day of the year, and sometimes three a day. I always thought the sound of an ice cream truck on Christmas Day was just a reminder I lived in sunny California. But then a neighbor brought up a good point, what are the ice cream trucks doing circling at 10:00 AM on school days? Who is their customer then? My neighbor said she sees adult men go up at these odd hours as customers. Are these trucks drug fronts or serve some other shady purpose?

I'd like to put a question and a request out there. The question- Am I just naive and these trucks have been underneath my street smarts radar all this time? The request- If you do see a suspicious mid-day sale at a ice cream truck, please report it. These trucks are all over Pomona all the time. If they really are infra-structure for crime, I'd love to shut them down.

Thanks for the read,


PART II: Starting a New NW Group

Let's imagine Henrietta Pussy Cat wishes to start a NW group in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe: "Meow Meow Henrietta Pussy Cat meow wants meow to take a bite out of crime meow." What steps can she take to achieve her goal?

I'm sure alternate paths to action exist, but here's a run down of how we got the ball rolling in Garfield Park. I put time estimates after each step; they feel accurate, but memory is a fickle thing.

Step 1. Call Pomona Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit. (909) 620-2318. After you give your address, the CPU will be able to tell you who serves as the Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) for your area. The Specialist for your area is your go-to person for all things Neighborhood Watch. 15 minutes.

Step 2. Read the Information Packet. Your CPS person will likely send you a packet of information about Pomona's NW program. As I recall, our packet contained lots of useful information and tips for organizing watch groups; I think there were some preliminary forms to fill out, too. 1 hour.

Step 3. Select a date and time for your first NW meeting. Coordinate this time with your CPS, as she or he will want to be there to help facilitate the meeting, to get a sense of community interest, and to support you. At this point, your CPS may contact the watch captain on your behalf to request the presence of an officer at your meeting (if you don't want an officer present, it is AOK to let your CPS know this). 5 minutes.

Step 4. Make Fliers. Ask your CPS if she or he would be willing and available to create and duplicate a flier announcing your meeting. You will need to know how many fliers to request, so count doors in the neighborhood before placing the call. To help encourage broad participation, it is a good idea to print the fliers in both Spanish and English; doing so signals to neighbors all are welcome -- not just English speakers (we struggle with this impression in our neighborhood).

Frankly, at least for the first meeting, I think it would be a good idea to request at least two sets of fliers. The first flier, which you could distribute a couple weeks in advance of the meeting, would announce the existence of the group and invite neighbors to "save the date" for the first meeting. The second flier, which you could distribute 2 - 4 days before the meeting, would serve as a reminder, and perhaps an invitation to "meet your neighbors and share your concerns." 5 minutes (requesting the fliers is easy; the CPS is doing the hard work here -- be thankful)

Step 5. Distribute the fliers. Knock on doors, introduce yourself. Don't be surprised if neighbors want to share their concerns with you on the spot. Validate their concerns and let them know you hope they'll consider sharing their thoughts at the meeting. 30 minutes (this time estimate, of course, depends on the size of your area).

Step 6. Stay in contact with your CPS. Let her or him know about any concerns you have about the actual meeting. Ask questions.

Step 7. Prepare a simple agenda. It will likely include: introductions, concerns, plans for the next meeting. 5 minutes

Step 8. Gather supplies. Definitely bring a sing-in sheet (with spaces for name, address, phone number, e-mail), a pen or two, and a notebook for your own use. In addition, you may wish to bring the following to the meeting: name tags, markers for the name tags, extra pens, maps of the neighborhood which people can use to "x" any problem areas, light refreshments (totally optional). 10 minutes.

Step 9. Knock on doors. We find that, even with the fliers (and now the snazzy yellow yard signs), it is useful to go door-to-door in the hour or moments preceding the meeting to encourage people to come by. Some people forget about the meeting; others just need a little extra reminder that their input is valued. 30 minutes.

Step 10. Enjoy your first meeting! The CPS will likely arrive a few minutes early and will bring a bunch of window stickers and placards, informational brochures, etc. As people arrive, introduce yourself, offer a name tag (if you decide to use them), and ask everyone to sign-in. You or the CPS can kick off the meeting once it looks like most everyone has settled in. 1 - 2 hours, depending on attendance and level of enthusiasm.

[Today's image obtained from Three cheers for Fred Rogers, who taught us what it means to be a good neighbor.]

Sunday, January 25, 2009

PART I: Locating existing NW groups

Cal Poly student Anduhrew (check out his blog) asked, "Are people in north and central pomona extending some help out to south pomona? I know south pomona needs tons of help. I'd like to start a neighborhood watch on my block, but being a self sufficient student takes too much time."

Great questions. And great fodder for a couple posts about starting and sustaining Neighborhood Watch groups. Over the next couple days, I'll post about how to start a new watch groups, the time involved in serving as a Block Captain (i.e., organizing a watch group), and other ways of biting crime and building community in neighborhoods without NW groups. Alas, the person-replicator I ordered never arrived, so I'll necessarily write from my own perspective; I hope others will share their insights. With that disclaimer in place, let's turn to a question implied by Anduhrew's comment:

How does one locate existing NW groups?

Before initiating a new NW group, it is worth checking around in hopes of finding a nearby -- and, if you're lucky, active -- watch group. (Although I do get a kick out of the very retro NW signs posted in some neighborhoods, I interpret such dinosaurs as signaling a less-than-active watch group; I have no data to back up this claim.)

If the group is really near by, it might be possible to join forces. The other group likely has a meeting place, a meeting schedule, contact lists, etc. Perhaps all one would need to do is pass out the fliers (which the police department can generate and duplicate) to those living on the "new" street. At the very least, I imagine any existing NW group would welcome a new comer to at least a couple meetings to get a sense of how that group's meetings tend to unfold, the kinds of issues and concerns people generally talk about, and the camaraderie of the group.

So, where do you find these groups?

Idea 1: Call the Pomona Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit. (909) 620-2318. After you give your address, the CPU will be able to tell you who serves as the Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) for your area. Ask your CPS to help you identify the nearest and/or most active watch group in your area. If you're interested in speaking with the Block Captain, ask the CPS if she or he can put you in touch.

Idea 2: Attend the SARA meetings for NW peeps. "What is SARA," you may ask? SARA stands for Survey, Analyze, Respond, Assess. These meetings, which are hosted by the Police Department, are like a community-wide NW meeting. The officers share information, hear concerns, and provide follow-up to questions and issues that emerged in previous meetings. (You can find a rundown of the last SARA meeting at the M-M-M-My Pomona Blog). SARA meetings are held at 7 PM on the second Tuesday of the month in the chambers of the Pomona City Council (near the library). The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 10 at 7 PM.

When you arrive to the meeting, consider letting the facilitator know you are looking to connect with watch groups from your area. Last month there were, I'm guessing, 26 people in attendance -- introduce yourself, ask questions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gang Prevention Unit Wants Your 411

Garfield Park witnessed an impressive turnout at its monthly Neighborhood Watch meeting. We engaged in lots of useful information sharing about topics ranging from suspicious activity, home foreclosures, and shady ice cream trucks peddling wares at 10 AM on school days.

Of import to the broader community, the Gang Prevention Unit reminds us to call their hotline with any and all information about gang related activity. Provide as much information as you can; to the extent you are able, give information about who, what, when, and where. The hotline numbers are 909-802-7477 and 909-620-2148.

Of course, use 911 for emergency calls, and call dispatch if you'd like an officer to respond to a non-emergency: 909-622-1241.

A Sign of the Times

Thank you to all the neighbors who volunteered to put bright yellow signs in their yards announcing our NW meeting. We have coverage at the corners of Reeves and Mountain View, Pasadena and Mountain View, and Pasadena and Arboleda (and a few other places along the way--I mention the corners because those spots are most likely to be noticed by passer-bys).

Beyond reminding neighbors about our NW meetings, they let others know that our NW group is active and...well...watching.

A special thank you to Paula Lantz for providing the signs and the idea to use them!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crime Fighter Obama

Torture! Detention! Geneva Convention! Oh my! While we watch our Pomona neighborhoods, President Obama is watching a broader sort of neighborhood. He spent a few minutes of his day signing executive orders to put an end to crimes committed by agents of our federal government. You can check out the text of the executive orders. In a nutshell, the executive orders compel:

1. The closure of Guantanamo Bay.
2. A review of detention policies.
2. The lawful interrogation of prisoners.
3. A review of the detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (the only enemy combatant held on US soil)

An impressive Day 2, I dare say.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Perpetuating Stereotypes or Promoting Facts?

I just received the following note from a college-age neighbor who is leaving the neighborhood.

"Ahh, Pomona. So full of memories. The memories of the cop shooting that dude in front of the [house], the guy shot right in the butt in the park across the street (honestly, who does a drive by with a frickin' RIFLE!?) and the memories of the [house] being broken into and burgled. After a year and a half, we are done with this place. So, now we are off to the world of Ragin' Waters and Bill and Ted: San Dimas. As of January 30th, 2009, our new address will be _______."

Everything he says in the note is true. The officer-involved shooting did happen right here, the butt-destined bullet brought the park to the news, and their house was targeted during a burglary. Yet, I find the note's tone entirely irritating. Perhaps the tone is an attempt at humor, or perhaps the writer attempts to affect an edgy "I don't give a hoot" attitude.

In an invite to their house cooling party, the same neighbor wrote: "To celebrate our exodus from the land of shootings, knifings, break-ins and hookers, we are having the last themed party at the [house] before [we] ....make our way to the lovely land of San Dimas. Come dressed up in any way you interpret the theme!" In cases you're wondering, the theme for the party is "I fought the law."

Sure, I understand he feels victimized after a break-in. I get that. But I don't understand the willingness or motivation to rip on the entire community. I still live here. I'm not a hooker (though once I dressed as a one for a college Halloween party -- a regrettable choice); I don't do drugs (well, there are those prescriptions in the medicine cabinet).

How do we draw the line between stereotypes and honest representations? Sweeping generalizations about our community become assertions about neighborhoods, about individual homes, about the people who live and love within those homes. I object.

What worries me most is we're sending out into the broader world someone who has now lived in Pomona and will likely attempt to serve as a witness to all the ills of our city, "the land of shootings," further strengthening the assumptions held by people who resist going south of the 10 or east of the 57. Gee, thanks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Announcement: Free Health Screening

Roosevelt Elementary School (701 N. Huntington Ave, Pomona) will host a free health screening event this Saturday, January 24 from 9AM to noon. The event is open to adults and children.

On your way to or from the health screening, stop by the Pomona Farmers Market for a healthy snack. The apples were amazing last week, and those fresh raisins shame the puny boxed kind.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Garfield Park NW: Saturday @ 3:00

Garfield Park has witnessed an increase in suspicious activity over the past few months. To name a few: a break-in, a smashed door window, a shooting (non-fatal), lots of gun fire, suspicious interactions in the park, and....drum roll...a white Chevy. Oh yeah, a white Chevy.

The driver of the white Chevy, who seemed overly interested in our every move and was omnipresent at all hours of the day, spurred an impressive bout of neighborhood organizing. Neighbors e-mailed and called each other and the police department with information about Mr. Chevy's presence and activities. Officers spoke with the man over a week ago; we haven't seen him since. Chalk one up for team effort.

Not surprisingly, neighbors are looking forward to our monthly NW meeting, scheduled for this Saturday at 3:00 PM. All are welcome. If you live nearby and would like to visit, drop me a line back channel for the meeting location.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An e-collaboration

Welcome to the Pomona Neighborhood Watch blog, a place for NW groups to share announcements, concerns, and community building strategies. If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor, send me an e-mail so I can add your name to the approved contributor list.