Neighborhood Watch, he said.
“If you want the homicides to drop, if you want the break-ins to drop, you have to give the police a little help,” he said.
It’s a program that has been around since the early 1970s, and focuses on bringing together residents and law enforcement to prevent crime and improve communities. But not everyone is sold on it, some don’t trust law enforcement and others are discouraged to join due to language barriers.
Callaghan, 46, a sales associate at Games for Fun, says he often runs into people who are dubious that the program works.
“A lot of people have this black cloud image, that if they call, nothing’s going to get done,” he said.
His group began with three members, who worked together to observe and write down suspicious and criminal activity in the area.
They talked to the city about cleaning up a pile of house rubble left behind from the Old Fire at the end of the street. They reported a dangerous hole in a bridge over Cross Street.
Callaghan took it a step further by installing surveillance cameras in the area and installing burglary alarms in his apartment. He also attended San Bernardino Police Department’s community police academy – a seven-week course that teaches residents about the department.
Police came in, made arrests, served search warrants and cleared residents out of homes where criminal activity was taking place.
City workers cleaned up the burned-down house and fixed the hole in the bridge.
The number of crimes occurring in the neighborhood has dropped from 21 in the first quarter of 2011 to 12 in the same period this year, according to police statistics.
When residents around him saw the progress, his group grew from three members to 15.
“He stepped up, got a few people, who got a few more people and now it’s just rolling,” said San Bernardino police Lt. Paul Williams.
But the process hasn’t been without some challenges.
An elderly couple living on Conejo, who are members of the group, reported suspicious activity to police several months ago. That call resulted in police arresting several people, Callaghan said.
The same night, someone busted the front windows of the couple’s home. Another window was broken three weeks later. Callaghan and his neighbors worked together to replace the windows and report the crimes to police.
The vandalism stopped after they contacted officers.
San Bernardino Police Chief Robert Handy said he began holding regular meetings with Neighborhood Watch leaders when he started with the department. Police use those meetings to teach residents how to improve their neighborhoods, report illegal dumping, code enforcement issues and other matters.
“The more residents get involved, the more improvements the residents can make and we can make,” Handy said. “We’re much stronger together than we are separate.”
For information on how to start a Neighborhood Watch group in San Bernardino, call Diane Holmes at the Police Department, 909-388-4918. Reach Melissa via email or call her at 909-386-3878.