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Crime specialist urges importance of Neighborhood Watch in Summerlin

It’s one thing for residents of Summerlin to recognize an increase in criminal activity that may warrant closer attention by the Metropolitan Police Department. But it’s another thing for the same residents to recognize that there are effective initiatives they can take on their own to help deter such crimes.

One of the most effective answers to these and other criminal acts is to organize and maintain a Neighborhood Watch, the kind of remedy that serves as the “eyes and ears of the community.” In times like these, when Metro is strapped for manpower and other resources due to budgetary constraints, coupled with the recent rise in criminal activity throughout the Valley, it not only makes good sense to become proactive — it is especially incumbent upon residents to do so.

That’s where Kathy Cassell enters the picture. Cassell is a veteran crime prevention specialist who is attached to the Northwest Area Command, 9850 W. Cheyenne Ave., which is responsible for Summerlin and surrounding areas. She has served in that capacity for many years and is well suited to give advice.

One piece of advice she offered during a recent well-attended meeting of concerned Summerlin residents, who gathered at the Desert Vista Community Center in Sun City Summerlin: “If I were not sure that the idea of a Neighborhood Watch worked, I wouldn’t be wasting my time with it.”

Cassell backed up her declaration with an interesting statistic: “Eight percent or less of community crime in Las Vegas occurs in the northwest area.” That area is made up largely of residential neighborhoods, and the relatively low crime rate is due in great measure to the existence of Neighborhood Watches.

To support that low percentage of criminal activity, Cassell urged any doubters to punch into the crime mapping features on LVMPD.com — a constantly updated compendium of criminal activity — either on your computer or through social media.

So what is a Neighborhood Watch? In a general sense, it’s a means of constantly staying alert to what is happening in your neighborhood; of being especially tuned in to matters of a suspicious nature and staying in touch with other residents in your neighborhood who are equally alert.

In a more formal sense, as defined in Wikipedia, a Neighborhood Watch “is an organized group of civilians devoted to crime and vandalism prevention within a neighborhood … Its purpose is to educate residents of a community on security and safety.” It also emphasizes that when a criminal activity is suspected, members of the watch are urged to call police.

In an effort to unravel a common misunderstanding, Metro Lt. Nick Farese of the Northwest Command, who addressed the same meeting, explained the difference between a burglary and a robbery. “Basically, they are two different crimes. A burglary happens when you’re not at home. A robbery happens when you experience it personally.”

“I am always in your community,” Cassell told one resident who expressed fear of break-ins, as she stressed the importance of neighbors constantly being “the eyes and ears of the community.”

“You let us (Metro) know when you’re not happy with us. Well, we need more than 16 Neighborhood Watches in a community of more than 7,000 homes (actually 7,779 homes),” she told another resident from Sun City who said he was not comfortable knowing that the retirement community’s security patrol was his means of protection. “When I hear that kind of resident frustration, you have to bear in mind that the security patrol consists of retired volunteers who help serve as the eyes and ears of your community. And I encourage everyone in Sun City to keep an updated emergency file with the security patrol.

“But there are other things you can do. For example, too many garage doors are left open, even only six inches. That creates easy access to enter your garage and your home to steal what they can. I encourage our Neighborhood Watch groups to keep in touch with one another. You can call us anytime to learn how to set up a Neighborhood Watch.”

Her office phone number is 702-828-4305.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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