You'll hear it called Neighborhood Watch, Home Alert, Citizen Crime Watch or Block Watch. The names differ, but the idea is the same: neighbors looking out for each other.
Police Crime Prevention Commissioner Hans Ho, who is in charge of organizing Neighborhood Watch groups in Antioch, discussed how he got involved with the volunteer effort three years ago after having lived in Antioch for 10 years.
"I decided to either complain about the problems or be part of the solution," Ho said. "I have seen what happens to victims of crime. If I can help prevent crime from happening, then I know I have done something good.
"Neighborhood Watch is for people who want to take ownership of their own neighborhood. Neighbors get to know each other, their living habits, their contact information, and they watch out for each other. Neighbors then learn to resolve and communicate with each other and resolve problems. Neighbors also learn to observe suspicious behavior and report accordingly to the police."
Ho is emphatic in clarifying that Neighborhood Watch is not a vigilante group. He strongly discourages people from taking the law into their own hands. "Do not confront anyone. It is not worth getting hurt over," he said.
Every Neighborhood Watch group has a block captain. Two of them from Ho's neighborhood agreed to share their experiences, but requested anonymity.
"It's hard to celebrate our success stories," said one block captain. "Then the Neighborhood Watch program becomes a target for those who want it to fail. I do this to preserve the nice quality of life in our neighborhood, for my own sense of security and also to give back to the community.
"Obviously, we have celebrations and parties - we have block parties and barbecues ourselves - but nightly parties with several cars coming in and out looked suspicious. We have had a drug house busted. Any party that disturbs any neighbor is against municipal law. The police can't know everything. So Neighborhood Watch acts like a beat cop. We have also helped prevent and resolve vandalism, auto thefts, burglaries."
The other block captain said, "Neighborhood Watch is about neighbors looking out for each other. It's a matter of being aware of your surroundings. In my block, there was nightly activity - loud parties, fighting in the streets. We created a log and got an incident report. The Antioch Police Department CAT Team came to investigate and effectively resolved it."
Both captains encourage everyone to get proactive about security. They provided several suggestions, starting with making sure your house is secure by using deadbolt locks; locking your windows, garage doors, fences; and using an alarm system.
They also suggest using a locked mailbox, if possible, because leaving checks with your signature and important data in outgoing mail in the mailbox could result in identity theft. You should also let neighbors that you trust know when you are going on vacation. And lastly, leave your porch lights on at night.
"Basically, make it hard for a crime to be committed," one of the block captains said. "Be aware of people aimlessly driving or walking around your area, as if 'casing the joint.' Call the non-emergency number, 778-2441, if you observe anything suspicious."
For more information on organizing a Neighborhood Watch in your area, call 779-6980.