I bought my home on Green Street in downtown Martinez in 1992. Not long after moving in someone broke into the house through a rear window that opened into the basement.

At that time, the basement was mainly used for laundry and the storage of excess furniture but the front part of the area was used as an office.

After arriving home that day the first thing I noticed was that the window was open. I thought that was strange because that window was never opened. I closed it not thinking much more about it until I noticed the side door to the driveway was unlocked. Now I was suspicious.

I checked around the basement and noticed that the fax machine was gone and the connecting phone line was broken like someone ripped it out of the wall. A few other desk items were missing but nothing else.

All of a sudden I realized that we had been burglarized, and the intruders must have been scared off when we came home.

The realization that someone entered my home was a feeling that I never had experienced before. You hear about people who have been burglarized saying they felt "violated." That is just how I felt.

I called the Martinez Police Department and an officer came out to inspect the premises and take a report.

He was very nice and comforting but told me that it would be very unlikely that any of my property would be found and returned. He suggested I go the to flea market at the Concord drive-in. We did, but didn't find any of our stolen property.


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The officer also suggested that we start a Neighborhood Watch program in our neighborhood. He said that Neighborhood Watch is the most effective crime prevention effort that a neighborhood could institute. Neighbor looking out for neighbor, reporting suspicious activity and individuals to each other and to the police.

We agreed to start a program and contacted all of our neighbors in a two block radius. The first meeting was held at my house, and to my surprise, more than 30 neighbors attended and listened as Officer Marchiano explained the program and how it worked.

My family became the first Green Street neighborhood captains and we hosted two National Night Out celebrations in our driveway.

Other residents have since taken over the program in my neighborhood, but there have been very few burglaries in that area since the program was instituted more than 20 years ago.

On Aug. 5, the Martinez Police Department participated in National Night Out throughout the city. National Night Out -- "America's Night Out Against Crime" -- began in 1984 to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, and neighborhood camaraderie.

The Martinez Police Department was one of the 16,000 communities in the United States to participate. There were four main venues, including Creekside Church, which provided a fire truck from Consolidated Fire, the Reach helicopter, Martinez SWAT truck, a K-9 demonstration, hot dogs and beans (provided by the Boy Scouts), Community Emergency Response Training information and music to approximately 200 people at the event.

Nancy Boyd Park had two large neighborhood meetings which combined into one very large group by the end of the evening. There were several police officers in attendance and a K-9 demonstration was also provided to the more than 100 participants.

The marina had two food trucks, several police officers, CERT and K-9 demonstration.

Unfortunately, the scheduled landing of a helicopter was canceled due to an emergency response in San Jose.

The fourth venue, Les Schwab, was bustling with a car show, music, bounce house, food, root beer floats, SWAT truck, police, fire and CERT personnel, and a few hundred people.

I attended the event at Les Schwab and the Harbor View Neighborhood Watch celebration at the home of Marshall and Ann Cochrane.

The evening was a huge success and was a great opportunity to build and create partnerships with the community and provide a great deal of information about Neighborhood Watch and emergency response.

If you don't have a Neighborhood Watch Program in your area, or you want to join one, contact the Martinez Police Department at 925-372-3442 or email eghisletta@cityofmartinez.org. If you are not a Martinez resident, go to your city's website.

I am sure you can find information about programs in your city. You and your neighbors working with your local police department is the most effective crime prevention program.

Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at rschroder@cityofmartinez.org.