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Neighborhood Watch

Addressing the meeting were, from left, Ashley Stephen, crime prevention specialist; Deputy Grant Haney, assigned to the community-oriented policing detail, and Lt. Greg Coauette, who has lived in Rancho Murieta since 1995. (Click for larger image)

A Neighborhood Watch meeting that was postponed from last September drew only 16 residents Tuesday night at the Rancho Murieta Association Building. The essential crime-fighting advice shared: Get to know your neighbors and talk with them.

The speakers at the informal meeting, which ran a bit more than an hour, were Ashley Stephen, the new crime prevention specialist for the sheriff’s Central Division, which includes Rancho Murieta; Deputy Grant Haney, who is now assigned to the community-oriented policing detail after patrolling the South area and Rancho Murieta for 20 years, and Lt. Greg Coauette, who is second in command at Central Division and who has lived in Rancho Murieta since 1995.

Stephen urged Murietans to call the Sheriff’s Department with reports of incidents. “We don’t know about it unless you guys give us a call,” she said, adding that she recognizes response time can be “difficult.” She said she was pleased to hear the deputies’ response time on the recent Country Store break-in was 10 minutes, saying she has also heard complaints of hour-plus response times.

Even with the community’s gates, she said Murietans should lock their doors and use porch lights at night. She also urged residents to use door cameras, which, once registered with the Sheriff’s Department, let detectives know they can contact you for a video resource in that area.

Haney said Costco has “big, color, infrared” camera security systems for $300. Stephen suggested you talk with your neighbors about their camera system, if they have one, but get to know them in any case.

Haney, who said he covers 586 square miles in his job, referred to “meetings where people just want to yell and scream, ‘Well, I need an officer here 24/7.’ I mean, I would love to be able to do that. It’s just not possible.” 

Of Rancho Murieta, he said, “You’ve obviously done something right. It’s a fabulous, unique community. It is, I would say ... more safe than a lot of communities. Of course, everything has its problems. But you do have your advantages here. Not to mention just quality of life.”

Coauette, operations commander for the last two months, said he is among “a ton of law enforcement that live in this community, which at some point in time becomes a resource.” Frequently, he said, he has driven through the gate and offered Security help with a situation they’re addressing. Of the off-duty police presence, he added, “It’s a resource you guys have out here....” He said he talks frequently with Security Chief Jeff Werblun.

In response to a question, Haney said the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have a formal package on how to start a Neighborhood Watch program. Stephen said a community program usually starts with a group of neighbors in close proximity who call a meeting. The Sheriff’s Department will attend and answer questions, she said, and the neighbors continue to hold their own meetings and exchange information.

She mentioned one group that has created a phone tree, an email list with weekly updates and a street captain for each street involved.

Coauette said you can Google more information about Neighborhood Watch. Saying he wasn’t endorsing the product, he mentioned how the Ring security camera product sets up a network with your neighbors if you want it to. In addition to face-to-face conversation, participants mentioned online options like Facebook and Nextdoor.

Werblun suggested the meeting’s attendees go back and talk with their neighbors about the need to get together on the project. “But if you guys or anybody else out here in the community is not willing to put the leg work in, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “They are not coming to you to knock on your door to say, ‘Hey, we’re here to do it for you.’ No. That’s why it’s called Neighborhood Watch.”

He echoed the warning that gates give Murietans a false sense of security.

“With 6,000 people living here, not everybody is good,” Werblun said. “Or their visitors or their guests or their other family members are good people. Or the contractors coming in.” He added, “We have crime out here. It’s on a lower scale, but it does happen.”

In response to a question, Werblun said crime in the community is mostly property crime – and crimes of opportunity at that. People need to lock their cars, remove valuables, and lock their garage doors, he said.

Coauette and Werblun said if there’s an in-progress crime to report, call the Sheriff’s Department first (911), then call Security (916-354-2273). Deputies can be far away, so getting them started on response is a good idea, Werblun said, while Security’s average response time is two to five minutes.

Stephen can be reached at (916) 876-8322 or astephen@sacsheriff.com. Haney can be reached at (916) 291-3635 or chaney@sacsheriff.com.

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