In an effort to take back their community amidst a rash of burglaries and vandalism, Levittown residents came out in full force to learn about creating a Neighborhood Watch Program.

At the informational meeting, hosted by Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilman Gary Hudes and Legislator Dennis Dunne, Sr., at Levittown Hall on Monday, Feb. 23, residents were broken up by streets for organizational purposes regarding the Neighborhood Watch Program.

Councilman Hudes asked that the meeting be a "productive one."

"We now need to look forward and know that as we end this meeting tonight that we have a community that is together and wants to accomplish something," he added. "And that we are going to look out for each other. Communication is the key to this program."

Nassau County Police Department members were also in attendance, including Commanding Officer of the 8th Precinct Inspector Allen McGovern.

Despite the arrests of two teens in a Greenbelt Lane burglary, "we haven't had a lot of success in the past two weeks," McGovern said. "Although there were no burglaries last week."

Officer Thomas Gilberti from Community Affairs heads the 8th Precinct's Neighborhood Watch Program. He said the Bethpage, South Bellmore and Freeport communities have had success with such programs.

A neighborhood watch is a group of people working together to protect their neighborhood. Members meeting their neighbors, learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood and report suspicious activities.

"It is an extension of what you are already doing," Officer Gilberti said. "It is passive participation through observation. A Neighborhood Watch Program tried to make it more systemic and organized."

There are three types of programs: passive observation, foot patrols and motor patrols.

Officer Gilberti advised if residents planned on using foot and/or motor patrols, they would have to contact the police department.

"The police have to be involved," he added.

There are three components of a Neighborhood Watch Community. The director/coordinator discusses non-emergency activities with the police department and organizes dates for future meetings. The director/coordinator will also be added to the police department's SPIN Network. According to the NCPD's website, "the Nassau County Security/Police Information Network (SPIN) is a dynamic, multi-dimensional crime prevention partnership between the Nassau County Police Department and the private sector that seeks to increase public safety through the sharing of important and timely information."

There should be one block captain for every 10 homes. The block captain is responsible for maintaining an up-to-date phone tree and developing a map of the community that displays participating houses and problem areas.

The membership is the third component. They will most likely receive all of their information from the director/coordinator and block captain.

Officer Gilberti advised that participants should attend as many meetings as possible.

"In the beginning you might be having one meeting a month but after a while you can go down to one meeting every three months, like other communities do," he said.

These meetings should be a social event, giving residents an opportunity to socialize before and after the meeting. They should be conducted in an orderly fashion with a set agenda. The group should establish goals and priorities.

"Expect setbacks, disappointments and disagreements, but don't let that discourage you," he added. "Keep moving forward."

Kick off the program by going door-to-door distributing fliers and asking neighbors about their concerns.

"Include businesses, religious institutions and senior citizens," Gilberti said.

Have a kick-off day and publicize it.

Councilman Hudes said the Town of Hempstead would be in touch with individuals who signed up at the meeting to be block coordinators and captains.

"A Neighborhood Watch Program is a long-term commitment," he added. "With you participating, we will make a difference."

"We are the eyes and ears and we have our fingers on the pulse of this community," Legislator Dunne said.

Both Councilman Hudes and Legislator Dunne are Levittown residents themselves.

For more information about the Neighborhood Watch Program call Councilman Hudes at 812-3279 or Legislator Dunne at 571-6215. To contact the 8th Precinct call 573-6800. To report a crime or suspicious activity, always call 911.

"For any crime to be committed you need three conditions: the desire, the ability and the opportunity," Officer Thomas Gilberti from Community Affairs explained. "The desire and the ability, that's they bad guy. We are in control of the opportunity. There are a lot of things we can do to prevent from being victims of a crime."

While it seems obvious to check and lock windows and doors when leaving your home, this is the most important step in protecting your home from a burglary.

According to FBI statistics, only one in four break-ins involve forced entry. The majority of would-be thieves enter through open windows and doors. Other preventative measures include:

- When you are away arrange to have someone take in your mail, mow your lawn or shovel your drive

- Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you are away

- Install light timers to go on and off at different times

- Turn your telephone ringer down so it cannot be heard from outside

- Lock or secure ladders and outdoor furniture

- Secure outside doors with a deadbolt lock and sliding doors with a broom handle placed inside the track

- Keep foundation shrubs and trees trimmed. Trim branches up to six feet off the ground and shrubs down to three feet to minimize hiding places

- Use an electric engraving tool to mark valuables

- Ask for identification before talking to a stranger at your door

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