Volunteer Hans Ho has helped Antioch residents for nine years, and now he’s asking them to return the favor.
Ho’s term as the city’s crime prevention coordinator has been up for a year, but he can’t step down because none of Antioch’s 100,000 residents has signed up to replace him.
Ho still awakes every morning with one goal in mind – make the lives of criminals in the city difficult by leading its seven-person commission that oversees 150 Neighborhood Watch groups. He spends between 40 and 60 hours per month volunteering while also working a full-time job.
Commission bylaws restrict the city’s crime commission coordinator to two four-year terms, but Ho is working his ninth year. “The job is still rewarding,” said Ho, “especially when people come and say, ‘I took your hints and it’s made a dent in crime in my neighborhood.’”
As coordinator, Ho oversees the commission and assists in facilitating and training Neighborhood Watch groups on communitywide prevention programs. Once contacted by a prospective Neighborhood Watch group, the commissioners teach its members how to fight crime through observing, listening and reporting techniques that turn average citizens into the eyes and ears of the police department.
“Its not about confronting and arresting criminals,” Ho said. “It’s about knowing what to look for, how to be a good witness, what phone numbers to use and supporting one another.”
The importance of Neighborhood Watch groups continues to grow as the city’s police force remains understaffed and crime is on the rise.
Lt. Robin Kelley, who oversees the Neighborhood Watch programs for the Antioch Police Department, said many of the city’s crime-prevention success stories involve Neighborhood Watch groups. Six months ago, a neighborhood watch member saw an Antioch police officer chasing a robbery suspect on foot. When the suspect got away, the volunteer jumped into her car, told the officer to join her, and the duo found the suspect, who was arrested by the officer.
“They’re an essential part of community policing, “ Kelley said. “They really do help bridge the gap between the police and the community.”
Ho’s job has become increasingly more demanding over the past two months as the number of citizens who desire to start Neighborhood Watch groups has tripled, according to Kelley. To date, Antioch boasts 150 Neighborhood Watch groups directed by 220 neighborhood block captains.
In the ideal setup, each of the city’s seven crime commissioners represents a particular section of the city, but commissioners are often sent out of their zones to handle demand.
As some groups are more active than others, from time to time Ho will contact the less active groups to prompt them to meet and address their concerns. “Groups are formed when people are having problems with crime,” Ho said. “Then things get better, and they let their guards down.”
Neighborhood Watch groups have been instrumental in catching criminals red-handed and combatting squatters. “It’s quite simple,” Ho said. “Criminals do not like attention.”
Antioch’s Neighborhood Watch program began in the 1980s and was reinvigorated under former Police Chief Jim Hyde, who retired in 2010. Current Police Chief Alan Cantando has kept an emphasis on the program since replacing Hyde.
There is currently an opening for one commissioner as well as a replacement for Ho. Applications for the two positions can be found at www.ci.antioch.ca.us/citygov/b&c_application.pdf. Applicants must pass a background check, be interested in neighborhood watch programs and possess good communication skills. Applicants are interviewed by Mayor Jim Davis, Cantando and Ho. For more information, call 925-779-6878 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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