PENINSULA — Community Watch/Neighborhood Watch is looking for a few good neighbors.
The program has been revamped on the Long Beach Peninsula in the last year and now leaders are seeking to broaden its scope while introducing new signs.
But the main priority is seeking people to sign up and learn about the program.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” said Rebecca Schabel of Long Beach, one of a trio of supporters promoting the concept at a recent safety fair in Long Beach.
Pam Graham, of Ocean Park, said its approach is simple. “People watch for crimes and tell the sheriff, especially in the areas where there is more criminal activity,” she said.
People who sign up to be a part of the watch program receive tips on how best to spot potentially suspicious or criminal activity, and learn what to report to the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office or Long Beach Police Department.
Jay Graham joins his wife Pam in supporting the program.
“A large problem here in Ocean Park is the fact that a good 50 percent of the population are part-timers who come here in the summer, or Spring Break, then we don’t see them for the rest of the year,” he said. “We try to look at their property.”
The concept has existed in Pacific County for years, but was boosted last year when then-Sheriff Scott Johnson appointed Howard Chang as volunteer program coordinator. His work continues under the new sheriff, Robin Souvenir.
Chang moved to the Peninsula about five years ago from the Seattle area after a career in information technology with a burgeoning interest in security.
That aspect — helping others learn ways to make their homes more secure — has become a key element of Community Watch/Neighborhood Watch efforts in the past year.
People who sign up for membership, which is free, receive information on crime trends and security advice, plus tips on how to help. They also are invited to members-only meetings at which key concerns are addressed.
As summed up on the program’s link on the sheriff’s office website, “the focus is on observation and awareness, while avoiding putting yourself at risk.”
Chang said volunteers learn observation skills to become the “eyes and ears of law enforcement,” while getting to know their neighbors better.
That often means they are able to recognize someone who does not belong in an area.
About 200 people have signed up; the majority so far are in Ocean Park, whose residents have expressed considerable concerns about drug-related crimes and illegal dumping around their neighborhoods.
Jay Graham said help is always needed in Ocean Park.
“The plan is to expand efforts as much as possible, getting individual members in out-of-the-way neighborhoods — that’s where we lack coverage,” he said.
While encouraging broader active involvement in the northern part of the Peninsula, the intent of the group’s leaders is to spur awareness and interest throughout the southern communities, including Ilwaco and Chinook.
“There is no minimum requirement to join and you don’t have to come to meetings,” Chang said. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
Watch signs are designed to be a deterrent to thieves. The old format had a familiar blue background with an eye logo. New ones being distributed have been funded by Rotarians.
“Watch members are grateful to the Rotary Club of Southwest Peninsula County Peninsula for their generous donation to our signage,” Chang said.
He said a goal is to address other issues, too.
“The program will eventually broaden beyond crime prevention to include other programs important to the community, such as emergency planning,” he said.