Step up, stop crime

Published 10:41 pm Monday, October 24, 2011

Old-timers often are well known for their propensity for looking back with reverence into an idealized past. Everything was sweeter then, people were friendlier, life was simpler and offered more time for relaxation and neighbors looked out for one another.

Of course, none of those things was always true everywhere, and each person’s life was a bit different than others in his or her community because of the choices he or she made and the opportunities that presented themselves. One thing, however, seems to have been pretty universal in communities like Suffolk: Folks tended to look out for one another.

The idea of shared responsibility for neighbors and communities had many benefits, not least of which was that it helped increase the likelihood that folks who sought to commit crimes would be caught by police tipped to nefarious activity or by private citizens keeping their eyes open for anything out of the usual.

Email newsletter signup

That kind of vigilance is even more important in communities like Suffolk in 2011, when gang violence, graffiti, burglary and other crimes threaten more people and property than ever. Part of that job falls to police, but the first line of defense in a neighborhood or community must be the people who live in that community.

Folks from homeowners associations at subdivisions around North Suffolk and from the city’s King’s Fork area seem to understand the role they should play in the relationship with Suffolk’s police department — or at least they’re learning it.

A group of about 30 residents of those communities got together recently to hear from members of the Suffolk Police Department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team. And those residents heard an old-fashioned message that still rings true today: If you see something suspicious, call the police.

“Nothing stops if you don’t step in,” Wexford Downs resident Cheryl Cachnoff said. Cachnoff watches for suspicious activity in her neighborhood, and she’s not afraid to call the police when she sees something that sets off her internal alarms. That’s what police officers urged neighborhood representatives to do.

There are good, selfish reasons to be vigilant about reporting suspicious activity. The burglar you help apprehend, for instance, might have been scoping out your house to hit next. And the teenagers who are rousted might have been planning to tag buildings and slash tires along your street.

Just as importantly, though, your vigilance on behalf of your neighbors is part of what it takes to make a community into a neighborhood.