Sunset Cliffs resident Nicole Ueno recently began lobbying local residents, seeking their support on a proposal to create as many as eight different neighborhood watch “zones” across Ocean Beach and Point Loma.
The movement is in part reacting to a recent major uptick in crime. Police responded to eight separate incidents of arson and vandalism — including people setting fire to alley debris, breaking car windows, even setting them ablaze — in OB in the month-long period between Dec. 7 and Jan. 7.
Spearheaded by Ueno, 40-plus locals gathered Jan. 31 at the Ocean Beach Town Hall to discuss what can be done proactively to help prevent crime. Topics vetted included aggressive homeless panhandling, vandalism, tagging, arson and illegal camps.
What came out of that Jan. 31 meeting, was a proposal to form new Neighborhood Watch groups in both OB and Point Loma with several different zones.
A Facebook page has also been created to popularize and promote the Neighborhood Watch effort.
Asked why she’s creating new Neighborhood Watch groups, Ueno replied, “Just the overall increase in crime in the area, [growing] trespassing incidents by solicitors getting into people’s homes — it goes back a few years.”
Ueno described the initial reaction she’s received from Peninsula residents to her efforts as “a huge outpouring of support from all sides.”
Ueno said her plan for OB is to extend the concept of the Neighborhood Watches, “So that you have members spread throughout each of the zones. We’re working now on setting up the zones, and getting neighbors to participate on their block, or in their zone.”
Asked about the progress of her efforts, Ueno answered, “It already seems to be happening seamlessly.” She added her goal is to have the new network up and running by the end of February.
“We want to have all our telephone trees and messenger groups intact by then,” Ueno said. “We need to set up zones, and captains for those zones. We’ll have a meeting where we can all get to know each other.”
Ueno said her reasons for spearheading Neighborhood Watch groups goes beyond the recent crime spurt.
“People don’t feel safe in their community,” she concluded. “We are trying to activate, and engage, people to take some action to change that.”
Ueno said her Neighborhood Watch initiative is seeking other improvements from the city for beach communities.
“We’re petitioning the city for more street lights to be installed in OB, which is very dark at night,” she said. “We also want to put together a self-defense class for women. We also want to set up first aid and CPR certification classes to train people what to do in the event of medical emergencies. We also want to put together a self-defense class for women.”
Setting up a Neighborhood Watch will also involve introducing new signage to alert citizens, and warn criminals, that a citizen’s anti-crime network is functioning.
Ueno said, as of mid-February, nearly 900 people had signed on to the new Neighborhood Watch program via the community’s Facebook page.
“We’re all working together, sharing ideas,” Ueno said of the ongoing effort.
Previously, Ueno, a lifelong Obecian, said she was “lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful and unique place.” But, she added, crime and rude behavior in OB has grown to the point where “I’m afraid to walk at night, or of getting yelled at for not handing out cigarettes or money, or stepping on broken glass on Newport Avenue where I used to walk barefoot in the summer. There’s no way I’d let my kids do that today.”