Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

  Uniting to keep community safe
  By Lindsey Harrison

     According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office neighborhood newsletter for September, 68 criminal incidents were reported in the Falcon and Black Forest areas for July and August. Richard Gropp, a Falcon resident for 25 years, said one incident that occurred two years ago prompted him to look into ways to keep his neighborhood safer and more secure.
   “Our house was broken into in the middle of the day,” Gropp said. “They broke in over a four-hour period of time, going in and out. Our neighbor’s security camera caught them on video.”
   Gropp said he and his wife were on a trip when the break-in occurred, and their security system was not active at the time because they had windows replaced in their basement and needed to have the system refitted to the new windows. A sign with the name of the security system provider was out front, in plain view, but that did not deter the thieves, he said.
   “It was really strange because the individual whose car we caught on camera actually allowed us to back (our vehicle) out of the driveway, and then they went around the block a couple times before parking back in front of our house,” Gropp said.
   Jacqueline Kirby, media relations manager with the EPCSO, said the community video program established in 2016 can use video footage like Gropp’s neighbor’s to help solve crimes. However, the owner of the footage has to come forward with what they have, she said.
   “We rely on the partnership with the community to come forward and let us know that they may have information that is helpful to our investigation,” Kirby said. “Our community is our best crime-solving resource.”
   Community members can register for the video program or can volunteer footage by posting it to the EPCSO’s Facebook page or emailing it directly to Kirby, if they are not comfortable with signing up, she said. People will often use footage from a doorbell that records activity, like the Ring Video Doorbell system, which has been helpful in solving crimes caught on the doorbell’s video, Kirby said.
   “We view this program as a partnership with the community to solve crimes; and, by solving crimes, we minimize crime,” she said. “We want people to know that El Paso County is a safe place to live.”
   That feeling of safety is exactly what Gropp said he felt was lacking after his home was burglarized. It was not the fact that the thieves stole items like his wife’s jewelry and a safe with their passports in it that bothered him; it was the fact that they invaded his family’s space, making them feel unsafe, he said.
   “I know that times are different and that we cannot really go back to the days when you did not have to lock your doors,” Gropp said. “But we should not have to raise our kids to think they cannot go outside and enjoy themselves.”
   Knowing that multiple people watching out for suspicious activity can help prevent break-ins like the one he experienced, Gropp, who lives in Falcon Hills, said he formed a neighborhood watch group, called the Waterbury Cranston Neighborhood Watch, and registered it with the EPCSO. The demographic in his neighborhood is mostly older people who are frequently out and about, giving them ample opportunities to spot something suspicious or out of the ordinary, he said.
   Currently, there are 12 families involved in Gropp’s neighborhood watch group and another two who approached him showing interest in starting their own groups, he said. The EPCSO recommends that each group’s coverage area remain fairly small because having too many areas to monitor often causes a loss of control, Gropp said.
   To become a registered neighborhood watch group, Kirby said certain criteria must be met, all of which can be found on the EPCSO website.
   “The big takeaway is that if you see something, say something,” she said. “You can call our dispatch line; I get those calls, too. We can make sure that, if it is a critical piece of information, we can get it to the right person immediately.”
   Gropp agreed and said his neighborhood watch group serves as additional eyes monitoring the neighborhood, but also as a way to bring the community together.
   “It is about being vigilant, being respectful and being a good neighbor,” he said. “You have to be vigilant about what is going on in your neighborhood. You have to be respectful about other people’s property and to have a sense of community.”
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