Neighborhood Watch Pays Off

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

This Labor Day, Debra Velasquez saw some action in her backyard that was far from the typical holiday BBQs or get-togethers.

"The dog started barking, and we saw a young man running through the backyard," Velasquez says.

She says he was coming from a nearby vacant house in Lansing's Churchill Downs neighborhood, his arms brimming with stuff that wasn't his. She quickly flagged down her neighbor, who had just mentioned she was resurrecting their neighborhood watch group.

"As I was going by their house, they said 'do you know what just happened?'" says neighborhood watch leader Jeanne Fangboner.

So Fangboner called her police contacts, to let them know what they saw. Next thing they knew, 43-year-old Ruben Walker of Lansing was in police custody, charged with home invasion and forced entry, after police say he tried stealing copper piping from the vacant house.

"This is a perfect example of how neighborhood watch can help in the neighborhood," says Lt. Noel Garcia of the Lansing Police Department.

Garcia says it's all thanks to observant and involved neighbors.

"The goal here is to organize neighbors so much so that people coming into the neighborhood to the wrong reasons, for criminal activity, they know this is not a place for them to come," he says.

There are currently 201 active neighborhood watch groups in Lansing, but police are hoping that number grows, because it's not just copper theft neighbors can stop.

"There can be a suspicious person in the neighborhood, maybe a potential pedophile," Garcia says, adding that if you know your neighbors, you'll be able to spot who doesn't belong.

And as that area's neighborhood watch gets going again, a word of advice from an observant Velasquez:

"Know the neighbors. At least a block long. Know the people on your block," she says.

If you would either like to get involved in or start your own neighborhood watch, call the Lansing Police Department's neighborhood watch division at 483-4469. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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