Neighborhoods lay down the law 

When a wave of burglaries hit several residences in the southern part of the city late last year, the neighborhood unified and helped police catch a suspect.

Now, the city is launching a new endeavor to prevent those neighborhood crimes.

After the break-ins, police visited south Burlingame neighborhoods, gave crime prevention tips and encouraged residents to report suspicious people, Burlingame police Sgt. Jim Ford said. Tips from residents led police to Shawn Curtis McKnight Jr., 20, and many of the stolen goods were reportedly found in his Rollins Road home. McKnight was arrested in connection with nine of the 12 home burglaries, Ford said.

On the opposite end of the city, a group of residents in the Poppy Drive neighborhood is way ahead of police. Led by Councilmember Terry Nagel, they have formed a neighborhood network that, among other actions, sends e-mail and other alerts when there have been crimes or suspicious activity.

"We’ve had some burglaries in the neighborhood, and, through our network, by the next day usually there’s something online saying, ‘Don’t leave your doors unlocked; be careful,’" Poppy Drive resident Ray Marshall said.

City Hall, police and fire representatives are sponsoring a citywide neighborhood network program April 1 in hopes others will start their own groups.

As part of the program, police can visit neighborhoods with crime prevention tips, and firefighters can provide free Community Emergency Response Team and other disaster preparedness training. People can ask their neighbors to watch their homes while they’re on vacation, too.

"The key is just knowing your neighbors," Ford said.

Nagel said that last weekend someone shone a flashlight in her neighbor’s window at 4:30 a.m., which scared the woman, who lives alone. Within a few hours, everyone in the neighborhood had received e-mails to beware of suspicious people, she said.

"That’s what neighbors are for," Nagel said.

The project should have staying power because residents will organize themselves, instead of police forming neighborhood watch programs, City Manager Jim Nantell said.

"When you organize neighborhood block captains, they start to get bored after a while," Nantell said.

The network also is more holistic and incorporates a variety of tools in one program, Nantell said.

The April 1 course for residents interested in setting up their own networks will be held in the library’s Lane Room at 7 p.m.

Community watch

Features of Burlingame’s Neighborhood Network, starting April 1

» Crime prevention

» Disaster preparedness

» Community Emergency Response Team training

» Funnel comments to City Hall

» Block parties

» Neighborhood contact directory

» House watching for vacationers

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Mike Rosenberg

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