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Give your neighborhood a reputation criminals won't like [Editorial]

Each week, this newspaper's Crime Log catalogues the criminal acts reported by local police. In most cases, these are thefts — a computer stolen from a house, a lawn mower stolen from a shed, a GPS device stolen from a car.

Often, locks are not being used. Thieves recognize that as an opportunity and take advantage.

But the biggest opportunity thieves require is simply this: no one watching.

Eyeballs on alert are the greatest nemesis of the larcenous. Combine vigilance with a knowledge of the neighborhood — awareness of the comings and goings of those who live nearby — and a powerful crime deterrent emerges.

That's why National Night Out Against Crime, which is Tuesday, Aug. 6, and has been held annually on the first Tuesday in August since 1984, is an effective rallying event for anti-crime efforts.

Here in Baltimore County, neighborhood watch groups like Citizens on Patrol will be out in car caravans to encourage participation. The Towson Area Citizens on Patrol will hold its annual procession throughout the dozens of communities it encompasses.There will be special events where neighbors can get acquainted with each other, as well as the police who patrol their neighborhoods. It's likely that a politician or two will also show up.

You don't have to attend a scheduled event. Put out some lemonade and cookies. Take a stroll with a flashlight; listen to your radio on a lawn chair; scatter some mulch on your flower bed — just go outside. Your presence on the street will encourage others, and they might join you.

Of course, one night of mingling and schmoozing will not a crime-free neighborhood make. But being outdoors with neighbors is one step toward the kind of circumspection — eyes and ears on alert — that can pick up on things, like someone unknown emerging from a backyard or that pair loading copper pipe into a truck or that stranger testing car door handles.

Neighbors watching out for each other in solidarity creates an environment that will soon get a reputation, a rep that will intimidate those with mischief or aggression on their minds. Consider it a different kind of street cred.

And, don't forget, crime-free neighborhoods have higher property values. Sounds like a win-win.

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