Redwood City expands neighborhood watch program 

When vandalism increased at the Roosevelt Center in Redwood City, the 14 tenants banded together to create the city’s first neighborhood watch group for a business.

Six months later, Kay Harbal, property supervisor for Portfolio Realty Management, said the overall problem has largely subsided.

"It’s been a huge success," Harbal said. "The tenants are involved and talking to one another because vandalism is an expensive problem; they all have a vested interest."

Getting business owners involved was easy, Harbal said. The management group had invited the Redwood City Police Department, but she said she was surprised at how much the city cared.

Erica Spacher, Redwood City’s neighborhood liaison coordinator, said the city has ramped up efforts to "reinvigorate" neighborhood watch programs throughout the city.

In addition to the business park, 12 other groups were formed or brought back to life, Spacher said. One neighborhood watch group has grown to incorporate 14 blocks. Another group was formed at an elementary school and includes Spanish speakers.

Neighborhood watch groups are typically formed by residents of a block, Spacher said, to report suspicious activity and prevent crime or to just to get to know neighbors.

"It’s been phenomenal this past year," she said. "Public safety is something residents are really interested in."

In order to create a watch group, Spacher said at least 10 homeowners have to sign up. A community officer from the Redwood City Police Department will come to the meeting to answer questions and address concerns.

Spacher said Redwood City will even help with the cost of fliers or find a location to host a meeting.

Though Spacher did not have statistics available on crime decreasing in Redwood City, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said more than 30 million people nationwide have gathered in various forms to prevent crime.

For instance, the small California city of Cypress’ neighborhood watch "cut burglaries by 52 percent and thefts by 45 percent," according to the sheriff’s Web site. The volunteer group reportedly saved police an estimated $79,000.

Spacher said interest continues to grow. Another group is being formed this week because of a burglary in the Oakdale Avenue neighborhood, and residents want to be involved in preventing future incidents.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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