More meetings planned over next few months

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department is reviving efforts to assist neighborhood watch programs and plans to support a social network designed to help establish virtual neighborhood watch programs.

A handful of community members attended a neighborhood watch meeting Thursday evening at the Sycamore Park Community Center.

The department is planning more community watch meetings across the city in the next couple of months, according to spokeswoman Georgette Allen.

Those meetings will include information on using the "hyperlocal" social network Nextdoor, which focuses on connecting neighbors for various activities, including to communicate with each, post information on suspicious activity and sell goods.

"It's another tool for community members to help be our eyes and ears," Allen said before the meeting. "They know what is suspicious in their neighborhoods."

The virtual neighborhood watch programs are intended to complement and not replace traditional neighborhood watch programs. They are meant for residents who may not have the time to participate in a regular neighborhood watch program, Allen said.

Farmington police are unable to see communication between residents posted in each neighborhood network but can post messages to networks in their jurisdiction.

Officers also can reply to comments from residents on the Nextdoor post they create similar to a post on the department's Facebook page.

Some of the posts made by Farmington police on Nextdoor include information on Thursday's meeting, Halloween safety tips and pet safety tips from the department's Animal Control Unit.

"We want them to have ownership, but we want to help them establish it," Allen said about the virtual neighborhood watch programs.

District Coordinator Unit Officer Michele DeLese and Sgt. Roque Velarde led a session to present information on establishing a neighborhood watch program and guidelines, and best practices to improve the effectiveness of the program.

They discussed various topics, including the common types of neighborhood crime, tips on describing a suspicious person/vehicle, and the difference between an emergency and nonemergency phone call.

They also discussed how to lower the risk of your vehicle being burglarized and recent figures on the number of auto burglaries in Farmington.

The city of Farmington experienced an increase of about 62 percent in the number of auto burglaries between 2015 and 2016. There were 480 burglaries in 2015 and 931 in 2016, according to the presentation.

About 75 percent of the auto burglaries occurred when the vehicle had its doors unlocked.

George Golombowski was one of the residents attending the meeting. He has been participating in a neighborhood watch program for nearly 25 years.

He thanked Farmington police for presenting the meetings, which he said he believes have helped the department foster better relationships with the community. The meetings help residents become more observant of their neighborhoods and what is going on, according to Golombowski.

"It's raising awareness for people living in the area to somewhat be responsible for the area," Golombowski said.

Farmington police are planning additional meetings across the city and will post a notice of upcoming events to the department's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FarmingtonPoliceDepartmentNM/.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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