2007-09-14 / Front Page

City Watch program creates virtual neighborhood watch

By Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

Senior Dep. Joe Evans' newest weapon against crooks isn't on his utility belt or in his patrol car.

The former homicide detective, now the Thousand Oaks Police Department's crime prevention office, is utilizing a 21st century tool in fighting bad guys- his e-mail account.

Earlier this year, Evans started City Watch, an electronic newsletter he sends out via e-mail to nearly 5,000 Thousand Oaks residents as a way to improve communications between the public and the police.

The e-mail idea is already catching on in neighboring cities- there are plans to put a similar system into place in Camarillo by the end of the year.

"I think it's another tool or another avenue to enable us to work with the community and the community to work with us," said Senior Dep. Bob Maclean of the Camarillo Police Department.

"I just didn't think (the police) were communicating that well with the individual residents," Evans said. He wants to see the number of City Watch users in the Conejo Valley grow to 100,000.

The e-mail chain gives Evans the ability to build a virtual neighborhood watch program that covers the entire city. Evans said City Watch updates residents on crime trends, gives suspects' descriptions and offers tips on crime prevention and home security.

"It opens up that bond between the community and the police, 50fold," Evans said of the email program, which already has proved successful.

In June, two men were arrested in connection with the thefts of several commercial washing machines and dryers from apartment and condominium complexes throughout the Conejo Valley.

The two men suspected in the thefts were arrested based on information provided by a Thousand Oaks resident who knew about the thefts thanks to the City Watch email.

The e-mail newsletter was started, Evans said, to not only make residents aware of crimes that occur in their neighborhoods, but to offer realtime information directly from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

"What if we had to lock down a high school?" Evans said. "Wouldn't it be nice to send an email to all the parents in the snap of a finger?"

Maclean said that while the Camarillo station is working to develop a City Watch program, the first Camarillo residents in the email chain will probably be the city's Neighborhood Watch captains.

The e-mail newsletters help raise awareness about crime trends, but Evans and Maclean both emphasized that anyone who observes suspicious activity or sees a crime being committed should call their local police. Maclean said no one should confront a suspicious person or try to stop a crime in progress, but wait for police to arrive and deal with the situation. To receive the Thousand Oaks City Watch email newsletter, call (805) 371-8362 or e-mail tocity.watch@ventura.org. For the Camarillo City Watch e-mail, call (805) 388-5100 or e-mail camcity.watch@ventura.org.

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