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Watchful neighbors a key crime-fighting tool

Kristin Markova, right, helped organized a National Night Out block party in Concord’s Canterbury Village neighborhood, where families gathered for pizza, ice cream and games.

Watchful neighbors a key crime-fighting tool

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Watchful neighbors a key crime-fighting tool
Kristin Markova, right, helped organized a National Night Out block party in Concord’s Canterbury Village neighborhood, where families gathered for pizza, ice cream and games.

Briane Ray is well-known to Concord police. And he likes it that way.

Ray’s home in Concord’s Crossings neighborhood is “decked out” with cameras, where he has captured petty crimes from mailbox thefts to smash and grabs in cars. He turns that information over to the police, often with good results.

“I see myself as the protector of the court we live on,” he says.

Ray is part of a new breed of security experts that seem to be popping up in neighborhoods across Concord and Clayton. With surveillance cameras and doorbell technology that can see potential thieves, homeowners are playing an increasingly larger role in crime enforcement, says Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger.

Chief Elise Warren in Clayton adds that building community among neighbors also goes a long way to kicking crime to well-manicured curbs. That’s why last week’s National Night Out and programs such as the Neighborhood Watch in Clayton’s Peacock Creek neighborhood are vital for public safety.

“In general, we only have two officers on shift. So we really rely on the community,” Warren says.
If neighbors know each they, they are more likely to notice things like suspicious cars, barking dogs and strangers “casing” a neighborhood, she says.

Clayton was hit by a mini-crime wave the nights of July 18-19, when many residents reported car break-ins. Warren believes it was an organized group of thieves from close by who were looking for what she calls “crimes of opportunity.”

 

Watchful neighbors a key crime-fighting tool
Concord Officer Murtazah Ghaznawi was among the police staff getting to know residents at the Concord Library on National Night Out.

Thieves broke into cars, rummaging for loose change or something of value in the glove box. Eighty percent of cars affected were unlocked, she says. “If a car is unlocked, it makes it that much easier.”

Car break-ins are still a thorn in the side of the Concord Police Department, Swanger says, especially around apartments. But in his biannual report to the City Council, he said his highest concern is petty thefts in stores that turn into robberies.

“We’re seeing it in shopping centers across the East Bay,” he says. “They’re organized crews, with a getaway driver waiting while two or three others grab what they can from a store. If confronted by security, it turns into a robbery.”

He says local businesses could incorporate the same sort of community spirit and communication that is behind Neighborhood Watch and National Night Out. “The more people get to know one another and share information, the better,” he says.

Swanger and Warren have some key advice for residents to keep their property safe. “Lock your doors, lock your car,” Swanger says. “And don’t leave valuables in plain sight. That’s just asking for trouble.”

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