One of Arlene Hodges' mottos is that safety begins at home.
Sinceshe considers her entire neighborhood an extended home, the president of the Brooklyn Park Improvement Association has decided to spread the word. She's encouraging her neighbors to start a crime watch unit.
Residents will meet Feb. 19 to discuss launching a Neighborhood Watch group in Brooklyn Park. The idea faltered in previous years whenfew neighbors expressed enough interest, Hodges acknowledged. But she hopes to drum up enough support this time.
"I think the Neighborhood Watch idea is a very good thing," she said. "When you're sleeping, you don't know what's going on around the neighborhood. This way, we might start patrols, or something, and keep an eye out."
Officer Guy Della, the county's crime prevention specialist for the northern and western neighborhoods, has been invited to brief the civic group on the Neighborhood Watch concept. Gary DeGraft, a Chelsea Beach resident who started a Neighborhood Watch there, also will provide tipson organizing neighbors.
The Neighborhood Watch program has been highly successful in deterring crime, Della said. Most communities involved in the program have seen a decrease in burglaries, car thefts and even drug trafficking. Communities deter crime just by posting Neighborhood Watch signs warning "We immediately report suspicious activities to the Anne Arundel County Police Department," he said.
"Basically, it means getting neighbors to watch out for other people's properties," Della said. "When they look out the window and see something suspicious, instead of going back and watching television, they check it out. If it looks wrong, they call the police department."
In one of the program's recent successes, Della said, a citizen called the police department to report drug dealing on the street. The Neighborhood Watch member provided police with a description of the car and the license plate number. A few minutes later, an officer noticeda car matching the description pull into a nearby playground. The officer pulled over the driver for questioning and made an arrest, Della said.
Della plans to urge the Brooklyn Park Improvement Association to organize Operation ID along with a Neighborhood Watch group. Residents participating in Operation ID engrave their belongings, especially big-ticket items such as television sets and stereos, with their driver's license numbers.
To post one of the big, blue Neighborhood Watch signs, at least half of the residents in a community must join Operation ID, Della said.
Seven communities in the northern and western parts of the county participate in the full-fledged Neighborhood Watch program. Another 50 are involved in some aspects, but donot have enough residents signed up for Operation ID to qualify for the entire program, Della said.
Brooklyn Park residents will be given crime watch stickers and information on engraving their belongings at the Feb. 19 meeting. They will be encouraged to write down suspicious activities and immediately call police when they witness a possible crime. Della also plans to provide advice on starting foot patrols to improve security.
Just across the county border, Brooklyn Park is an easy target for cat burglars and car thieves coming from thecity, Hodges said. Although she said the community doesn't have an especially high crime rate, she wants to make her home even safer.