By Danny Schrafel
Hundreds packed the South Huntington Public Library Nov. 5 for a crash course in the ins and outs of establishing a neighborhood watch on their block.
The packed neighborhood watch meeting was another outgrowth of increased activity in Huntington Station following the stabbing death of 18-year-old Walt Whitman High School senior Maggie Rosales on Oct. 12. Neighbor Adam Saalfield has been charged with murder in connection with her death.
“We have a common interest here,” Second Precinct Officer Angela Ferrara, who is spearheading neighborhood watch efforts on the police side, said. “We want to make Huntington, South Huntington and Huntington Station better.”
Already, what has been called the “Huntington Matters” movement continues to build momentum. Organizers announced Huntington Toyota will underwrite literature costs for the Huntington Matters neighborhood watch. All Huntington Matters literature published will be bilingual.
“The recent happenings in Huntington and Huntington Station have really galvanized this community,” said Xavier Palacios, one of the six principal founders of Huntington Matters. “We want to continue this movement.”
Ferrara was assigned to the Second Precinct in 1995, and was assigned to the COPE unit in 1998. She left in 2007 to become an academy instructor, but returned to the beat in 2009 when she was assigned to the Jack Abrams School on special patrol.
“I’m familiar with some of the issues you’re having in your community,” she said.
Much of the session was devoted to a Q-and-A session with prospective Neighborhood Watch participants. Ferrara also tackled specific queries about specific neighborhoods, fielded complaints from residents about past police responses and tried to allay skepticism about the effectiveness of the program. But most of the night was dedicated to laying out what a successful watch should – and, perhaps most importantly, shouldn’t – be.
“We want you to be the best reporters and the best observers in your neighborhood,” Ferrara told the audience. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not vigilantes – it’s not people going out pretending to be police officers. The more that information you get, that makes it better for us. That’s how we work – that’s what we need.”
The key to success, she explained, is becoming an expert on what belongs on your block – who walks there, who parks and drives there and the like – so when something subtly different emerges, you’ll notice.
“You get that sixth sense… You know something’s not right,” Ferrara said. “It could be anything – it can go from a very miniscule, small problem to a very large problem, but that’s what we need from you.”
A successful neighborhood watch, she said, will bring the neighborhood together and introduce neighbors to neighbors that, in a technology-driven world, one might otherwise miss out on.
Once a community watch is in place, Ferrara comes in and discusses conditions on the block, inspects the community and highlights simple ways to improve neighborhood security, such as better lighting and locking cars.
Neighbors will have a chance to weigh in on specific community concerns at 7 p.m. Nov. 19, during the monthly Second Precinct community meeting at South Huntington Public Library.