I am part of a neighborhood watch. Ok, full disclosure: It’s just a neighborhood watch of one, namely, me. But it’s a job I take seriously. Keeping my eyes peeled, always alert for strange noises and questionable behavior, with my cell phone at the ready to call the police, if warranted. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. And even though my neighborhood is what the police call “safe,” I feel it’s best to be prepared because you just never know.
Luckily for me, I live in a townhome that pretty much has an unobstructed view. So from my second story home office I can see the entire parking lot as well as the comings and goings of my alleged neighbors.It’s like I’m Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” only my leg isn’t in a cast and I hope to never witness a murder.
When I’m on my watch, I look around at my neighbors and find quite a few that look a bit suspicious, particularly the younger ones heading off to school each morning, with their dazed looks and oversized backpacks. What’s in those backpacks anyway? Hmmm…I also can see if someone litters in the parking lot (major pet peeve) or stores their trash container in their patio instead of in their garage where it’s supposed to be, according to our 1,050-page Homeowners’ Association rules and regulations. For years, I’ve been noting who is noncompliant and I send emails to the property manager with my full report. They should give me a badge.
The police in my community hold quarterly meetings at the recreation center and I attend every one of them. They want to be sure folks like me know the dangers that could be lurking behind every shrub and every corner. They tell us how we should never leave our downstairs windows open when we’re not home, and that we shouldn’t leave any valuables visible in the car where potential thieves can be tempted by them. I am also on the police listserv so that every time a law is broken in a two-mile radius of my home, I receive an email describing the incident. I find this information to be particularly helpful as I’m nosy by nature and need to know about every law that is broken here. So far, most of the law breaking has to do with not coming to a full stop at the stop sign and on occasion, auto break-ins. Last year, we had a report of a truancy and every once in a while some teenager is picked up for breaking curfew, which is 10:00 p.m., and worse, for possession of narcotics.
Once, a young man ran across the second story ledge of my building. A neighbor, a single mom only a few years younger than me, yelled,
“Monica, help! I’m being robbed!”
Immediately, my neighborhood watch jumped into action. If I had a fire station pole in my home office, I would’ve slid down the pole—stat. This was urgent, after all. Instead, I ran down the stairs and scurried outside. Was I too late to catch the little culprit? No. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him rounding the mailboxes and in a flash I was hot on his trail. Of course, that’s when it hit me: why was I chasing after a would-be thief or maybe worse–possibly an assassin for hire? Wouldn’t it be just easier to call 9-1-1? While I mulled this in my head, the wrongdoer made a clean getaway. I called the police to let them know about the perpetrator. Hours later, I would learn that he wasn’t a perpetrator at all, but the secret boyfriend of my neighbor’s teen daughter. Of course, now that the cat was out of the bag, he’d have to make a full confession—to the girl’s mom.
Yep, I feel it’s my job to know it all, so that I can better protect my loved ones, which these days amounts to protecting my dog, Henry. I know what you’re thinking, Henry should be protecting me, but he’s a Cavalier and that means he doesn’t care and he certainly doesn’t care about my neighborhood watch. But to me, being a good citizen, well, that is just part of my job. Speaking of which, break’s over. Time to get back to my neighborhood watch.