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Crime watch gets start on the green

Bob Stanley is tired of vandals bullying his fairways.

There have been car burglaries, stolen signs and fairway damage from unauthorized vehicles riding on the renovated greens. "We've had on-and-off problems with vandalism since we purchased the golf course in 2000," said Stanley, the general manager of Northdale Golf and Tennis Club.

But the golf club isn't alone. Community leaders continually hear complaints about mailbox smashings. And there also have been reports of graffiti on white barrier walls and subdivision signs.

"Increasingly, I began to realize the only way to alleviate the problem is to develop some kind of neighborhood watch program," Stanley said.

So Stanley, with the help of the Northdale Civic Association, is sponsoring a communitywide block party and crime prevention meeting to raise awareness of vandalism and other crimes in the neighborhood.

But the real purpose of the event is to motivate homeowners to become active in the county's neighborhood watch program.

Neighbors interested in organizing a watch group can contact the sheriff's community relations office. Deputies will meet with the new watch group for a crime prevention presentation, and later the group will receive two neighborhood watch signs to install on the block.

Landscape Drive crime watch coordinator Bill Castens identified five existing crime watch groups within Northdale's 13 subdivisions. "We don't have a lot," said Castens, a Northdale Civic Association board member who heads the crime watch committee. "We need more."

Castens adds, "Northdale doesn't have a real bad crime rate going on, and we don't want to."

Northdale community resource officer Jeffrey Massaro said crime watch programs can be very effective in helping control crime. Neighbors exchange phone numbers to notify each other if they spot suspicious activities.

But organizing neighborhood watch groups can be tough. Many people don't become involved until they become a victim of a crime, Massaro said. "If things are okay, people kind of get lackadaisical about things."

Massaro, who came to the Northdale sheriff's substation in November, encourages communities to be proactive.

"We want to get people together before there is a big problem," he said. "They are the eyes and ears out there."

Northdale homeowners are invited to the 7 p.m. Thursday meeting at Northdale Golf and Tennis Club on Northdale Boulevard. All will be treated to free pizza, drinks and cake. Stanley will also give away gift certificates for free rounds of golf and lessons, as well as meals at the clubhouse.

"All we're really asking is for folks to be involved now . . . so (crime is) never a big problem," Stanley said.

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