Neighbors gather to fight crime in Las Cruces
When I bought my home in 2002 there were two big selling points - an addition on the back that was large enough to accommodate the pool table I would buy a few weeks later, and the fact that it was in a quiet neighborhood on a street that is one block long and doesn’t really connect to anything.
For nearly two decades that isolation provided security, but in the last two or three years things have changed. It’s still quiet, and I still feel safe walking throughout the neighborhood. But in the last couple of years I’ve had thefts from both my car and my home.
And I’m not alone. My neighbors have also seen the changes, and they have organized to do something about it.
About 50 of us gathered in the cafeteria of Las Cruces High School recently for a monthly meeting of a neighborhood watch group that started six months ago in the living room of one of the organizers, but quickly outgrew both that and subsequent meeting spots.
The reason for that growth, and the topic on everyone’s mind, is crime. Neighborhood watch organizers have worked hand-in-hand with Las Cruces Police to take proactive steps making our small part of the city safer.
Much of the focus is on helping residents “harden” their homes, either through new technology like security cameras, or simply by making sure doors and windows are locked tightly. And, there is a concerted effort to be more vigilant and keep an eye out for things that look suspicious.
I agree with those who argue that we need to address crime at its root. Which is why it was so disappointing to see the Las Cruces City Council delay the start of much-needed affordable housing. Of the four city bonds approved by voters last November, affordable housing should have been the top priority, and the last thing to be set aside. Parks are nice, housing is critical.
But addressing crime at its root doesn’t mean ignoring it as it’s blossoming.
I was partly responsible for the thefts I experienced. The car that was “broken into” was unlocked in my driveway. Years of safety had led to lax habits. I now have to remind myself each time to make sure it’s locked.
Porch piracy and theft from mailboxes have both been growing problems. At the monthly meeting, we brainstormed on how to make it more difficult for thieves. One of the group leaders offered to hold packages for those who would be out of town when they arrived.
Another group member who is trained in self defense and firearms offered instruction for neighbors wanting to learn more about those means of protection.
The group isn’t only focused on crime. There’s a hospitality team that welcomes new arrivals, organizes cleanups and hosts the annual Christmas lighting contest. And, the meetings give us a chance to sit down and talk with those who we usually just wave at as we’re driving by.
But the reason membership is growing so fast is that all of us are frustrated with the problem and want to be proactive in finding a solution.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.