Mona Taplin noticed a strange driver who reclined his seat after parking near her home.
Taplin, a 50-year resident of Newark and captain of her Neighborhood Watch team, said she remembers a short police chase after she and a neighbor decided to call authorities.
“It goes to show, it does pay to pay attention and make sure these things are reported,” Taplin said.
Taplin has managed to keep her team active despite the dwindling of the city’s neighborhood watch program since 2008.
But there is hope in store for Taplin and other residents who are willing to monitor Newark streets by being attentive to anything unusual they see in their neighborhoods.
The budget amendment adopted by the Newark City Council on May 26 includes funds to hire a police assistant who will help rebuild the city’s Neighborhood Watch associations.
Alert neighbors have been key in helping authorities make arrests after recent residential burglaries, according to Newark Police department reports.
Just last Sunday morning, May 29, a 20-year-old man and two minors in the city’s Lake district after a neighbor provided police officers authorities with a vehicle description.
In April, police arrested two men across town near Mahogany Place also after a neighbor called in to report a strange car in the neighborhood.
An increase in criminal activity and awareness that citizen reports have helped solve several crimes prompted city staff to recommend hiring of a police assistant to help breathe new life into the neighborhood watch program, City Manager John Becker said.
While overall decreased 15 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, homicides and residential burglaries have increased, according to the .
To date, there has been . Newark saw five homicides in 2010, compared to one in 2009.
The new police assistant’s duties could include establishing new neighborhood block programs, active outreach to home associations, providing crime prevention tips and developing a way for volunteers to help police popular town events such as festivals and the weekly Becker said.
The estimated cost to hire a police assistant could total up to $65,000 per year.
Newark resident Pat Danielson said at the May 26 council meeting that she was excited to hear the neighborhood watch program would be reinstated.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she told the council.
Council members were also enthusiastic about the initiative.
“These are leverage programs that give us eyes and ears and help us with policing efforts,” said Mayor David Smith.
Taplin said her neighborhood watch team has managed to remain active despite less support from the police department after budget cuts.
“It’s up to us to keep an eye out for ourselves instead of complaining [police] don’t do anything," she said. "They’re not magic.”