Neighborhood Watch is back.
And it’s not the 1970s kind with neighbors prowling around with flashlights and meeting in each other’s driveways and homes, although there still are some like that Police Officer Ashley Sanchez told the Monthly Morning Meeting of MainStreet Oceanside Tuesday.
But this time around primarily, Sanchez, crime prevention specialist, said, it’s all about communication between police and the neighborhood. She and Sgt. Greg Stahley spoke about that aspect of resident and business safety. From the audience, Tom DeMooy, a MainStreet board member, introduced the Neighborhood Watch discussion. He is a sponsor of the four-page Mira Costa Neighborhood/Tri-City neighborhood Watch newsletter, which lists upcoming meetings and contact information for Sanchez, as well as other helpful numbers, for graffiti hotlines, for instance.
The officers also gave out a sheet [LINK] listing important phone numbers in the city, showing the four policing sectors and giving contact information for the neighborhood-services officer in charge of each. Sanchez said she is available to come to any Neighborhood Watch meeting. “Anybody can join,” she said, and meetings can be set up for whatever schedule, every fourth Tuesday, for instance. If people don’t like the Neighborhood Watch name, because of past connotations. she said, it could be “Community Watch.”
“You guys are our eyes and our ears,” she said, “We rely on you a lot.” Sanchez related the story of a woman who was frightened to find a man in her home, but she didn’t call police – “she told all her neighbors.” And, she said, “it’s not just safety, but health” – a woman was dead in her home for weeks because neighbors hadn’t checked on her. And then, she said, there is a need for officers and the neighborhood to discuss possible evacuation plans. Stahley noted that the following day would be National Coffee with a Cop Day, and
Sanchez said there would be such an opportunity here the following night. Everyone should know the city’s customer-service number, 760-435-4500, she said, and when most in the audience murmurred that they knew the number, Sanchez joked that “that’s the most consensus I’ve ever had in a group.”
Stahley was asked whether there has been an increase in the number of homeless. He said he did not have current figures, but he reminded that most of the local homeless are originally from Oceanside – they did not come here from somewhere else. The majority, he said, live along the (San Luis Rey) riverbed and use services available in a nearby industrial park.
Rick Wright, MainStreet CEO, elicited applause when he said “we have started an enhanced security program in downtown” and introduced the Normans. Already, Wright said, “we have received so much positive publicity.” He introduced Steve Norman and his son, Grant Norman, who told the group about their Gatekeepers Security Services recently hired for downtown.
Steve Norman said he and his family had moved to Hemet from Duluth, Minn., in 1999 and started helping at a local church. Many of the vagrants causing problems there lived troubled lives, he said, because they grew up without a father. He said his team was able to help. “I’m all about empathetic, compassionate” solutions, Norman said, He’s “excited to be here” and wants business owners to see progress . Grant Norman told more details of how the company’s four unarmed guards would handle situations 24/7, often taking photos of vagrants on the street and using facial-recognition software to recognize them again and determine their daily habits and how they are moving about town.
“We’re going to get a very solid idea of who’s here and where they’re coming from,” he said. “We can get a solid idea of the exact numbers.” Mary Ann Thiem, a MainStreet board member, asked if it’s legal to take pictures of people without their permission, and was told it’s lawful to do so with anyone on a public street.
Gumaro Escarcega, MainStreet Chief Operating Officer, said it will make sure everything is legal. Wright said Gatekeepers will provide a “completely different approach” that’s “going to give
us an accurate assessment of the downtown population that is responsible for petty crime and use state-of-the-art software to connect this group to services.” He said downtown property owners are contributing $270,000 to the pilot project.
In other business —-Cathy Nykiel, Director of Events and Sunset Market Manager, mentioned that postcards are available announcing the 21st annual Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, The event began downtown, moved to Mission San Luis Rey for a few years, and returned downtown last year. She said the free program will take place at the same locales as the Thursday Farmers and Sunset Markets.
–And, speaking of the latter, Nykiel said the annual Haunted Market –fliers also available– will be held Oct. 27 with MainStreet and merchants handing out hundreds of pounds of candy to the youngsters. Nykiel said volunteers are needed. She called it “a very family-friendly event.”
—Adrienne Cisneros-Selekman, Community Relations Liaison for County Supervisor Jim Desmond, reported on several things: supervisors have approved millions of dollars to address homelessness, including $3 million to the City of Oceanside for its proposed homeless shelter to be run by San Diego Rescue Mission; three of five new behavioral health centers in the county to help during mental-health crises will be located in North County; new Heli-Hydrants can help fight wildfires; Desmond will sponsor a program on how to organize a pet evacuation, if necessary, from 9 to 11 a.m. this Saturday at Woodland Park in San Marcos and the county’s 211 phone service for a variety of public services has been renewed. Wright said the 211 number has proven helpful when MainStreet staff is trying to find a needed service.
—Kathy Kinane, founder of the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, now in its 17 th year, said some 900 people already have signed up, and 30 percent of them said they will be visiting Oceanside for the first time. Fliers are available, she said.
—Eileen Turk invited everyone to the annual fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday at KOCT, North County community television.
|Meeting notes by Lola Sherman|
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