Burke Centre Neighborhood Watch Nixed

Burke Centre Neighborhood Watch Nixed

Enthusiasm for a Burke Centre community courtesy patrol, commonly known as a Neighborhood Watch group, was minimal at a recent community town hearing at the Landings Community Center.

A comprehensive report of the Parking and Towing Task Force prompted the meeting May 15, which was attended by 20-25 people, according to Burke Conservancy executive director Thomas Wade. Apparently the residents of Burke Centre didn't feel the need was there.

"It was an information meeting. Everybody spoke against the idea," he said.

The level of crime in Burke hasn't yet reached an alarming enough stage to form a central group, as was suggested, but each of the 65 clusters in Burke Centre does have the ability to form its own watch group. The blue Neighborhood Watch signs dot the Burke Centre Parkway roadside.

Fairfax County Police Department crime prevention officer Jayne Woolf is in touch with the Neighborhood Watch groups in her area, including Burke Centre.

"We have a lot of Neighborhood Watches that routinely call us. They don't have to know for a fact that it's a crime. It makes people more aware of their community," she said.

Woolf sponsors regular Neighborhood Watch training sessions at community centers; and when the work is completed on the West Springfield station, the training will be in the training room.

Roya Hamid, a three-year resident of the Glen Cove community, is aware of the group in her neighborhood. Her next-door neighbor is part of it. She's unsure of the effectiveness.

"People broke into cars and stole stereos and stuff," she said.

A 12-year resident of The Woods development chose not to give his name. He doesn't think a watch group is needed.

"Most of my neighbors in Burke are peaceful and quiet. I haven't seen a problem," he said.

Over in Cherry Run off Old Keene Mill Road, Christine Brown would feel safer with a watch group in her neighborhood, although she wouldn't volunteer to be in the group because of time restraints. Her mother's car was burglarized, and mailboxes have been vandalized.

"They said it was high-school kids because they were cutting down mailboxes on another street. We don't usually have those things, it's just recently," she said.

Springfield resident Crystal Deditius, a student at George Mason, thinks society has become so disconnected, a Neighborhood Watch group wouldn't help.

"People aren't friendly anymore. They don't care. If someone's going to break into your house, who's going to see? You have to be an obvious burglar to get caught," she said.

Her classmate, Amy Goldsmith, sees the blue signs but not any patrols.

"There's signs in the neighborhoods, but I've never seen anyone patrolling," she said.

The meeting announcement in the Conservator noted several incidents such as "a raucous booze party of young people (some underage) that left a community center in shambles; auto repairs done at night in a community center parking lot that left a huge, oozing oil spill in the parking lot; and skateboarders on a tennis court." It also stated, "We have to ask ourselves if this is the type of thing we want going on in our community."

Wade was alarmed at the issues, but he said it wasn't beyond "the threshold of vandal pain," enough to warrant a full-scale Neighborhood Watch, which would consist of community members or be handled by an outside company. Both options were examined.

"We had several incidents involving community centers. That's where it started," he said.

Pinkerton was the outside company Wade contacted about the patrol, and they gave him a proposal of $177,000 annually for 16-hours-a-day coverage with a patrol vehicle. He calculated it would cost each household about $30 a year for the first year and less after that.

The Neighborhood Watch issue now goes before the board in June, but Wade feels the issue will not be pursued.

"I would suspect the board would let the thing drop," he said.

Burke Centre is in Supervisor Sharon Bulova's (D-Braddock) district. She has a number of neighborhoods in her district that have active Neighborhood Watch groups, such as Kings Park West, Canterbury Woods and North Springfield. She looked at the functions of the groups.

"What they do is look out for graffiti, any infraction in the community. They're the eyes and ears of the police. We'll never have the manpower in the police to be all over," Bulova said.

She's also aware of the situation at Burke Centre and noted the Conservancy is similar to their own government center.

"Burke Centre is a very responsible community," she said.