Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Peaceful Baytown Neighborhood

I stepped out onto my front porch to get my newspapers like I do every morning I am off work and surveyed my peaceful neighborhood. I love this place. Down the street are the usual array of lounging cats; a stealthy furry night predator of innocent birds and rodents not indigenous to this country, but somehow introduced and accepted. Are they a metaphor of present day Baytown? Maybe, but then again I may just be thinking too much…again.

Looking around I observe an ominous pinkish tinge in the clouds and the myriad bird sound imitations of the ever present mockingbird or birds. Who knows how many are out there this morning? It’s peaceful here and feels warm and inviting; a great place for a kid to play and ride their bike – or maybe it isn’t. Of course kids don’t rise at the crack of dawn these days to meet their buddies and play baseball, but sleep, weary from an all-nighter playing video games, so it remains quiet. That is fine with me. Quiet times in the neighborhood are something I enjoy more than I can explain.

Walking around to the back I disturb a bouncing and boisterous blue jay as it launches off the limb of my dwarf cherry laurel, one of my sunflower seeds in its beak. Is there a more arrogant bird in Harris County than the blue jay? They land with a thump and a bump like they own the place and grab what they want. There’s nothing neighborly or easy about them – all flash and pizzazz and some refer to them as robber jays, as they have been known to hop in and take what they haven’t earned.

What - not another analogy to crime and criminal activity? Could be, but this thought is probably just a side effect of the neighborhood watch meeting we had with Captain D. W. Alford of the Baytown Police Department Saturday evening. Instead of enjoying the company of his own neighbors and family, he willingly gave us three informative hours and we appreciated it.

It’s no secret I live in Chaparral Village and CV is typical of almost any neighborhood in the city including your own. What happens here is an indicator to everyone else of what is happening in their neck of the woods with few exceptions. What we do that may set us apart is a neighborhood watch program that is growing stronger each day and that means we are collectively seeing more stuff that used to go unnoticed. We are calling more and that is a good thing.

According to Captain Alford, other than the street racing issue, we have less crime now than other parts of town and a lot of that stems from residents taking precautions and calling the police when we see something suspicious. We are installing night motion lights and for the most part locking our garage doors. We are removing our electronics and pilferables from our cars, locking the doors and setting alarms. In short, we are taking away the initiative of thieves by changing our pattern of behavior. Yea, we are changing the way we do things.

I guess it boils down to what we as tax-paying home owners want to see when we look around our homestead. Do we want to abort crime before we are victimized or do we want to pretend it couldn’t happen to us? Are we willing to change the way we do things if it reduces the chance we will be robbed or targeted for criminal mischief?

We here in CV are bolstering our stance of using the police department as the first line of defense in the event that our preparation fails. We are not vigilantes, but we are being vigilant. Capt. Alford told our group that a good way to decide if a call to BPD is warranted is if something seems amiss, doesn’t feel right, or makes us suspicious – then by all means call, but before you do, get a reasonable description of the situation. Get an address location and be as specific as possible. Think of it this way: Imagine the dispatcher is not familiar with your area and try to explain so anyone can find it. Don’t assume a vague description will be adequate – prepare as much as possible before making the call.

We CV folks enjoy our neighborhood as much as the next subdivision and realize the burden of creating a positive place to raise our family lies on us as individuals as much as anything. We have to communicate and share information more. We have to meet for Neighbors Night Out in August. We have to watch out for each other and by doing this; we increase the odds of keeping the bad guys at bay.

I want to spend the rest of my days right here in beautiful and peaceful CV and that means keeping it beautiful and peaceful in the future. So, as long as my fellow denizens and I keep vigilant, we can look forward to many more morning newspaper deliveries, pretty blue jays, lazy kitty cat sightings and beautiful pinkish fluffy clouds.

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