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Keeping Watch

Members of the Bonnie Brae Neighborhood Watch showed up at the West Springfield District Police Station to participate in the taping of three public service announcements promoting the neighborhood watch program with Rex Pagerie, crime prevention officer. Pagerie picked the Bonnie Brae group to help out because of their contributions to the program.

"This is the most cost effective way to get the message out," Pagerie said.

Ray and Peggy Manella have been part of the active Neighborhood Watch for years.

"We've been lucky," said Peggy Manella. "We had some leadership."

Neil Cooper sees the fruits of their labor, which provides another set of eyes and ears for the police. With the neighborhood watch in Bonnie Brae, there's less loitering and potential for trouble.

"It keeps the kids from sitting on the corner drinking beer all night," Cooper said.

Pagerie noted that in the past, various neighborhood watches have reported cars parked in their neighborhood, which led to the apprehension of several stolen cars.

The three public service announcements included one aimed specifically at homeowners associations, one aimed at individual residents, and one generic announcement. Originally the videos were to be part of a Neighborhood Watch training video that the Fairfax County Police Department could hand out to Watch groups that were just starting out. But that plan has changed, due to budgetary constraints, said Pagerie.

"We wanted to come up with an instructional video to hand out to neighborhood watch groups," Pagerie said.

Making a separate video would be expensive so now the video will be played on the county's public access channel. Nonetheless, Pagerie puts all the available resources into the program.

"Fairfax County has one of the best Neighborhood Watch communities in the nation. It's my goal to get Fairfax County to No. 1."

THE WEST Springfield District has 20-135 Neighborhood Watch groups, and the county has 550-600 active groups. The group numbers fluctuate because some start up when incidents of crime or vandalism occur and disband when the problem has been taken care of, Pagerie said.

Bonnie Brae's Watch has been active for eight years, but participants admit that its activity has been sporadic over the years.

"The best time to recruit is when something happens," Pagerie said. "It makes a big difference when they're on patrol."

The cameras rolled at the Manella's house for a few scenes, out on the street with Neighborhood Watch members on foot, and there were a few shots of a car driving by with a Neighborhood Watch magnetic sign on the door. Burke resident Mike Patrick, a sports announcer for ESPN, did the narration for the videos.

"He's going to do the voice-over at the studio," Pagerie said.

John Bauer at Burke Estates was a cameraman at ABC studios. Now retired, Bauer volunteers regularly at the West Springfield District Station and was on hand during the taping to help out.

"The crew out there was real good. I gave them a few ideas," Bauer said.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH program is a national organization with a goal to prevent crime. After 9/11, President Bush re-motivated the groups when he made them part of Homeland Defense. Pagerie noted the economic equation in this area, which makes Neighborhood Watches a necessity.

"With the double-income families, where does that leave the kids?" Pagerie said.