By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
Community tragedy prompts expanded Neighborhood Watch
The June 12 murder and assault of two Del Cerro women awakened fears that not all is as quiet and pastoral as many area residents had come to believe.
It’s awakened concern about homeless people in the area, which is a good thing. It’s also reawakened interest in Neighborhood Watch groups, which is a very good thing.
There is some question whether the 20-year-old charged with the murder and sexual assault was one of the small homeless community in the area. San Diego police and the District Attorney’s office aren’t saying much of anything about Eduardo Jose Torres. Rumor has it he may have once been homeless, but whether it was in Del Cerro or not is an unanswered question right now.
Police Community Relations Officer John Steffen says there is an area behind the gas station at Del Cerro Boulevard and College Avenue that shows signs of becoming a homeless camp, although it isn’t quite there yet.
“There hasn’t been a real upswing in serious crime that we can attribute to the homeless,” Steffen said. “It’s mostly in the vagrancy area where we run into them.”
That said, the obvious warning applies here as it does anywhere.
“If you see something, or suspect something, call us. Always call us.”
Mark Rawlins of the Del Cerro Action Council sees it a little differently.
“There are areas around that are considered as sort of a no-man’s land around here,” he said. “It could become a big problem if something isn’t done about them.”
If anything argues against a homeless community in Del Cerro, it’s the fact that the homeless usually tend to gather near places where there is a chance of food and supplies being available. There just aren’t that many such places in the hilly area that is much of Del Cerro, Windmill Farms being an exception.
One good thing this has done is to awaken much more interest in Neighborhood Watch programs all over the Del Cerro area, as well as adjoining Allied Gardens.
Melissa Palacios is a block leader for one of the more active Neighborhood Watch groups in Del Cerro.
“We have a strong group of neighbors here in our area. We stay in close touch with each other, and we use computers and social media to not only communicate, but to reach out to other groups in the general area,” Palacios said.
Palacios lives on Linfield Drive, not far from Del Cerro Drive and College Avenue, where the homeless community, whatever size of one there is, might congregate.
“We have phone trees, so that if someone sees something, the rest of the block is quickly warned to keep other eyes out for anything suspicious,” she said.
Palacios is somewhat of an evangelist about Neighborhood Watch — so much so that she’s been helping other groups to institute and update their methods of communicating so they’ll be more effective.
Officer John Steffen is a major supporter of the Neighborhood Watch concept. In fact, he’s the Neighborhood Watch coordinator for all of the Police Department’s Eastern Division and the “If you see something, say something” mantra is one of his favorites.
“Call us. We may not be able to help immediately, due to personnel shortages, but we’ll respond if we can,” he said. “If you don’t call, and we don’t know about it, then everybody loses.”
Neighborhood Watch volunteers like Palacios will call. It’s what they’re all about.
—Doug Curlee is editor at large. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.