Scottsdale Salutes neighborhood watch captain Barbara Weikart

Neighborhood co-captains Maggie and Barbara. Maggie painted this banner. (Submitted photo)

Neighborhood co-captains Maggie and Barbara. Maggie painted this banner. (Submitted photo)

Scottsdale resident Barbara Weikart’s recalls the time her teenage daughter headed out to the driveway only to find her car with a flat tire.

Looking up, she saw a tow truck conveniently sitting at the curb. “I can help you,” the tow-truck driver offered.

Ms. Weikart’s daughter denied the man’s assistance, stating her father who was inside could help her. The tow truck driver continued to pursue her.

“She thought it was suspicious,” said Ms. Weikart during a Sept. 22 phone interview. “It was just very weird.”

The Weikarts called police but by the time they arrived, the suspicious tow truck was gone. Police had a few suggestions: Always keep your eyes open, and create a neighborhood watch program.

Shortly thereafter the neighborhood association asked Ms. Weikart if she would start just such a program. “I thought maybe it would be a good idea,” said Ms. Weikart.

It has now been three years since the incident that took place on Ms. Weikart’s property, and thus the beginning of the neighborhood watch program in a Scottsdale neighborhood known as The Estates.

Although neighborhood watch programs are often portrayed in a comical scene of unfriendly neighbors forced to walk around the block together, that’s not how this program is, says Ms. Weikart.

“It’s kind of a hard sell because people think others are watching you,” said Ms. Weikart. “We are just trying to get people to go outside and meet neighbors around you.”

The concept is simple: The better you know your neighbors, the easier it is for you to spot something — or someone — unusual in the neighborhood.

Once a year there is a GAIN party, which stands for Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods. The neighborhood invites local police officers and firefighters to come out and meet with residents. Other fun activities are also planned for that day.

This year’s GAIN party will be noon-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. All neighborhoods throw their party at the same time every year.

Ms. Weikart says the message they’re trying to promote is that the program is not about patrolling the streets, but rather, getting to know your neighbors.

“You get to know your neighborhood and if you see anything suspicious you can call me,” said Ms. Weikart. “It’s more getting people to be aware of their neighbors.”

Every neighborhood enrolled in the watch program is also assigned a crime-prevention officer. Just a few weeks ago a neighbor saw patrol cars in the neighborhood and called Ms. Weikart to ask if there was something to be concerned about.

“We’re just trying to get that sense of community going again,” she said. “We have tried bunco and other things like that. It’s hard when you have sports and all of that.”

Ms. Weikart has lived in The Estates with her husband for 13 years, she said. Within their first 15 years of being married, the couple moved seven times.

“I was always wanting to meet my neighbors and stuff,” Ms. Weikart said. “Volunteering is the easiest way to do that.”

She was volunteering at a Scottsdale school library 15 years ago when she met her neighborhood watch co-captain Maggie.

“We moved to Arizona within two weeks of each other and have similar backgrounds,” said Ms. Weikart.

The two now run their watch program and enjoy walking around the neighborhood together.

“It’s actually regenerated some life into our community,” she said.

Starting a neighborhood watch program within a community is simple and flexible. Interested residents are encouraged to contact Joy Racine with the city of Scottsdale to first set up an initial official meeting.

“If residents want to start their own they should give me a call,” said Ms. Racine during a Sept. 23 phone interview. “Essentially they do need to have an official first meeting where I’m invited and an officer is invited.”

“We will talk about neighborhood watch, crime statistics and personal safety.”

After the first initial meeting, the flexibility of the rest of the program is up to the neighborhood, as long as they have at least one gathering per year, said Ms. Racine.

Ms. Weikart’s neighborhood uses the fun GAIN party as its yearly get-together.

Ms. Racine can be contacted at 480-312-2342 or by e-mail at jracine@scottsdaleAZ.gov for anyone interested in starting a neighborhood watch program.

If interested in volunteering in the city of Scottsdale visit www.scottsdaleaz.gov/volunteer.

To nominate a Scottsdale volunteer for Scottsdale Salutes e-mail mfittro@newszap.com.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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