Neighborhood Watch training at Shepard Elementary

It was hard to be sure from the back of the Shepard Elementary lunch room, behind the 30 people who turned up for Neighborhood Watch certification, but Officer Cynthia Crowe might actually have been blushing when she told her story about the importance of locking your car.

“It was very early January and I’d just gotten back from visiting my folks in Arizona,” Crowe said. “It was six in the morning and bitter cold. I went out, started up my car and neglected to push down the lock.”

She took a breath and, amid a bit of laughter from those familiar with the story, she continued. “I went upstairs, looked out the window and saw my car pulling out the driveway. Exhaust trailing away behind it.”

The story summed up why most people in the room were there: the belief that most common neighborhood crimes, like theft from vehicles and property can be controlled with a bit of training and simple precautionary measures. Crowe’s car was recovered within five days and suffered no damage.

“There was hardly even any gas missing,” she said. “My police baseball cap and some police tape were on the front seat. I suspect the thief knew pretty quickly he’d stolen the wrong car.”

Other Missouri residents have not been so fortunate. In 2009, 17,396 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the state, worth almost $103,000,000. Both numbers have been in decline since 2004.

“Pay attention,” Crowe said. Noticing the details are important. With vehicles it comes down to the acronym CYMBBL:

• Color
• Year
• Make
• Model
• Body
• License

With people, the details are simply what you see: gender, race, height, weight, clothing, and distinctive features.

The loss of local law enforcement officers due to cutbacks and military commitments has caused an increase in the reliance on local Neighborhood Watch groups and the two entities work increasingly hand-in-hand, Watch Boardmembers said.

Watch Boardmember Mary Wozny works closely with the beat officers in her neighborhood. “I don’t call them unless I see a crime in progress. But when I see that black and white doing a regular drive-through, it’s very, very satisfying.”

With 50 percent participation, or half the homes on a block, the Neighborhood Watch will put a complimentary sign in the neighborhood and additional signs at $40 a piece. “We’ll be out the next day,” Wozny said.

After Crowe’s presentation, there was a brief video and comments from Boardmember Geoff Gunnell. As the meeting neared its end, Richard “Dick” Gray stood up and put it simply: “This is our training, this is it. The rest is up to you.”

Neighborhood Watch:

Columbia Police: Non-Emergency, (573) 442-6131/6132

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