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  • Writer's pictureRuth Ann Angus

Neighborhood Cop


Ruth Ann Angus

His name was Officer John, and we knew him well those of us who lived in the central section of Greenwich Village, New York in the 1960s. Officer John was a beat cop, meaning he walked the streets looking out for anything amiss. Very often he would be stopped, usually by tourists who were either lost or looking for someone. Officer John always knew what to tell them. How to find the right subway line to lead them back to their suburban world on Long Island or New Jersey. If it was a missing teenager they were looking for, and there were plenty during those Hippie days, Officer John would caution them about trying to find them on their own, take down a description of the teen, promise to look for the teen, and steer them to filing a missing person report with the Metropolitan Police Department.


We girls who lived in the area apartments and visited the coffee houses to hear the folksingers and wandered home in the wee hours of the dawning day often encountered Officer John who would walk along with us until we arrived safely at our front door and then salute us good night. We were home unharmed. When anything happened in our neighborhood, no matter what it was, we always asked around to find Officer John. He was our neighborhood cop, and we could rely on him.


That is the concept the Morro Bay Police Department in California is going for too. Chief Amy Watkins says she wants residents to get to know their neighbors and that includes the officer assigned to every neighborhood section of town. This isn’t just for law enforcement although that certainly is part of it. “We had Neighborhood Watch for a while,” she said, “but it is dissolved now and that’s too bad because it did help curb crime.”


Several years ago, the department instituted the Assigned Neighborhood Police Officer program whereby citizens can contact an officer specifically assigned to their neighborhood using their new Morro Bay Police Department App that can be downloaded on their smart phone. Watkins reminds people that this is for discussing nonemergency things like parking problems or dog barking or other neighborhood issues. It is not for reports of active criminal activity – they should call 911 for that.


The theory of Neighborhood Watch is that residents of a neighborhood would become familiar with their neighbors and would be aware if anything appeared out of sorts. These days with individuals stealing packages from peoples’ doorsteps, the idea that someone would be watching seems good.


One of the good things that has come out of technology is the home safety cameras that can be installed on the outside of a house and would record any activity at that location when no one is home. These are tools that a resident can access while away to check out their property. Businesses have them too and videos of suspected actions have helped lead law enforcement to capture many a thief or someone doing harm.


One innovative idea that occurs in my neighborhood is that we welcome anyone new, and we all know each other and look out for each other. We have each other’s phone numbers and emergency contacts, even the names of our pets. It’s great to live on a street where you know if you are in trouble there is a neighbor you can call for help.


While Neighborhood Watch is no longer functioning in Morro Bay, Watkins hopes it can be revived. “Community involvement is the key to having a safe, nonviolent, crime free city,” she said, “we look forward to collaborating with the residents of all the neighborhoods in Morro Bay.”


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