It was standing-room only as nearly 100 people turned out Wednesday night at the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station ready to help deputies take a bite out of crime.
Residents from Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and unincorporated areas such as Lakeland Village, Temescal Canyon, and communities west of Perris, showed up en masse to learn more about the latest iteration of the local Neighborhood Watch program.
Wednesday's community forum was hosted by deputies from the Lake Elsinore station.
“This is an overwhelming response,” Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station Captain Shelley Kennedy-Smith told the crowd. “Residents are ready for change.”
Due to budget cuts, it's been years since the Neighborhood Watch program has been run in close coordination with law enforcement stationed out of Lake Elsinore. With Kennedy-Smith at the helm, however, the program is being restarted.
The community-based Neighborhood Watch program is designed to unite residents, curb crime, and improve neighborhoods impacted by illegal activity. Citizens work together to be “the eyes and ears” for police, and Wednesday night’s forum provided tips such as how to start a Neighborhood Watch, how residents can effectively work with law enforcement, and some basic training about crime prevention.
“I am so happy to see this city is motivated to keep the bad guys out of here,” Deputy Andy Acosta told the crowd.
Acosta stressed that while Neighborhood Watch participants are on the front lines -- reporting suspicious activity and crimes in progress to police -- the program is not a vigilant endeavor.
“This program does not replace police service,” he reminded the residents. “You help us do our job.”
Acosta also attempted to ease any fears residents may have about being a neighborhood tipster – or a witness.
As a deputy on the station’s special enforcement team, Acosta’s job is to make arrests, said Sgt. Ray Nava. “He’s good at it,” the sergeant reiterated.
So when Acosta talked about his work in the field, he offered, “Not once have I had a witness threatened by a suspect.”
Although Neighborhood Watch is run by residents, Community Services Officer Roxanne Baca is the current program liason and she told residents she is available to answer questions about getting watches started in areas served by the Lake Elsinore station. But Baca said residents should start talking with their neighbors now to garner interest and get as many people as possible involved.
“Neighborhood Watch is one of the most effective and cost efficient ways to reduce crime,” she said.
For more information about starting a Neighborhood Watch in your community, contact Baca at 951-245-3385.
If you see a crime in progress or a life being threatened, call 911. If you have information about a past crime, call the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station’s non-emergency line at 951-776-1099.
For general information about starting a Neighborhood Watch program, click on the attached PDF from the National Crime Prevention Council.