Neighborhood Watch comes to Maple Lake

After a community meeting on June 26, there is now a Neighborhood Watch program in Maple Lake.

Neighborhood Watch is a cooperative between local sheriff’s departments and the communities they serve to reduce, and hopefully, eliminate residential crime through reports of suspicious activity by concerned neighbors.

Neighborhood Watch was recommended for Maple Lake by Wright County Sheriff’s deputies at a recent council meeting, where concerned citizens reported an increasing number of thefts, vandalism and inappropriate behavior in city residential areas.

At the June 26 meeting, Deputy Eric Leander told residents that Neighborhood Watch is not intended to turn into vigilante groups, but rather an effort to spur neighbors to watch out for each other.

“Basically, this is a way to get to know your neighbors,” Leander said. “And not just for crime prevention, but also for the safety of each other.”

He urged residents to lock up vehicles, garages and homes and to secure valuables. “If someone needs money to support a meth habit, that costs about $100 a day. Present those people with the right kind of opportunity, and they’re going to take it.”

Leander also suggested videotaping valuables and recording serial numbers which can help in the recovery of stolen items. Other steps residents can take to protect their property include replacing the one-inch screws in many door locks with three-inch screws and adding to exterior lighting.

He said such individual precautions, combined with the teamwork involved in Neighborhood Watch, can work to decrease crime and increase the quality of life in participating communities.

In comments from the crowd, one resident told of a neighborhood effort to report the behavior of disruptive neighbors. Repeated calls to the management company of the rental home where the disruptive neighbors lived provided the ammunition for a court-ordered eviction.

In response to questions, Leander said it appears that in Maple Lake, it is juveniles who are behind the bulk of the thefts and vandalism. “I think it’s a lot of juvenile crime,” he said. “There are some adults in there, but it’s mostly juveniles.”

Leander said residents could report curfew violations, which is 10 p.m. in Maple Lake for youngsters under the age of 16. He said such reports could help build a case for punishment of juvenile crime or just help to keep kids off the streets at night through citations issued to parents.

He asked residents to use the local 274-3035 non-emergency phone number in such cases, or the Buffalo number: 763-682-1162.

In setting up the Neighborhood Watch groups, Leander advised not making the area groups cover too large. He said block captains should be selected, who would coordinate a neighborhood phone tree and would serve as a contact to receive information from the Sheriff’s Department.

And he said taking individual precautions and teamwork can make a difference.  “People come out and prey on our communities because many of you leave your stuff unlocked,” he said. “They know the pickings are a little bit easier out here.  “It’s our job to catch them, but any information you can give us helps a lot.”