Thursday, April 7, 2005

Interest in neighborhood watch grows

Published in the Current

The organization of a Mitchell Road neighborhood watch group has already improved communication between residents and Cape Elizabeth police.

On Monday, for example, a Manter Road resident called police to ask about an unknown car parked in front of her home for several hours.

The woman also called Mary Chris Bulger, a Lydon Lane resident helping to organize the neighborhood watch, to let her know, and told Bulger she wouldn’t have called police if she hadn’t attended a neighborhood watch meeting last month.

“People are much more aware and certainly calling the police themselves” as well as calling or e-mailing their neighbors, Bulger said. “I think that’s how it will go.”

The effort has also sparked interest in similar groups from residents elsewhere in Cape Elizabeth.

Community Liaison Officer Mark Dorval welcomes the prospect of other such groups starting around town. “The more eyes and ears out there the merrier,” he said.

Also welcoming the wider interest is Mary Chris Bulger, a Lydon Lane resident who, with Pam Salerno of Manter Street, is coordinating the Mitchell Road group, which will meet on Wednesday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the town center fire station in Cape Elizabeth to discuss how the effort will work.

Bulger said her group will continue to focus on the Mitchell Road area, and encouraged people elsewhere in town to meet with their own neighbors to set up their own programs.

At the April 27 meeting, Dorval will give a presentation on “being a good eyewitness” to help people know what details of a person or scene are most helpful to police.

Dorval said he hopes the effort improves the sense of community in the area. “In today’s day and age, a lot of people don’t know who their neighbors are,” he said.

The group will also plan presentations for future meetings, which are expected to occur at regular intervals, either monthly or every other month.

“In order for a neighborhood watch to be effective, you need to keep people’s interest,” Dorval said.

Bulger has her own plan to keep the group in people’s minds.

She has an e-mail list of about 22 households who will get regular updates about the group’s activities and programs.

“What I would be happy with is for people to be observant” and call police with questions or concerns, Bulger said.

She said people who live near each other are meeting each other for the first time as a result of the group. “I met several of my neighbors I didn’t know,” she said.

The group has sprung up after concerns arose that an intruder was repeatedly entering homes in the neighborhood and watching people while they slept. No one was harmed, nothing was taken, and the intruder fled as soon as the residents awoke, according to police.

“Hopefully they’ll catch this guy,” Bulger said.

Capt. Brent Sinclair said the department has “got a lot of calls,” including about 10 people suggesting specific names of people they want police to check out.

Of the 10 calls, two named the same person, Sinclair said, while the others all suggested different names.

“Everybody seems to think it looks like somebody they know or have seen,” he said. Police are following up on those leads now.