John Mansker had the perfect tool when recruiting people for the Ridgeview Village Neighborhood Watch program in El Dorado Hills — his Australian shepherd Lucy.
He and his dog-loving neighbors regularly walk their pooches in Ridgeview Park. It’s where the Neighborhood Watch idea was born about two years ago, thanks to friend Ginna Geren, and where Mansker started recruiting block captains.
Today the program has 19 block captains and more than half of the neighborhood’s residents (about 450 homes) participate.
“It’s a passive, vigilant group,” said Mansker, 64,who recently stepped down as Ridgeview’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator. “We simply stay alert … and on the side we find lost dogs.” So far, a 100 percent success rate on that front.
No fees, no driving around shining a flashlight into people’s garages — all that’s required to join Ridgeview’s Neighborhood Watch is an e-mail address. “The whole essence … is the dissemination of information,” Mansker explained.
Regular e-mails keep neighbors abreast on suspicious activity, break-ins and other need-to-know events. The newsletter also offers safety tips — some common sense and some people might never have thought of before. For example: Take your car key fab into your bedroom at night. If you hear something suspicious, set off the car alarm. It could scare away an intruder.
When Mansker began the program he also wanted to get one very important message across: If you see something suspicious, report it. “Most people won’t call the sheriff,” he said with some frustration. The Neighborhood Watch newsletter includes the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Dispatch and California Highway Patrol phone numbers every time.
Ridgeview Village had seen its share of thefts and vandalism when Mansker, a 19-year El Dorado Hills resident, decided to start a Neighborhood Watch with the goal of improving safety and relationships.
“A lot of people in El Dorado Hills have no clue who lives next door,” said Mansker, who confessed he used to be one of them.
In fact, when Mansker and his block captains started surveying the neighborhood he said some people thought is was a scam to get personal information. “But that’s OK,” he added.
Now, block captains host block parties where neighbors mingle and catch up. Mankser’s neighbors have very nice things to say about his efforts.
“We are truly thankful when we consider all this great neighbor has done to promote the safety and well-being of the residents,” Teresa Olson said. “In addition, John has a big heart and the integrity to do what he believes is right.”
Mansker also won over neighborhood business owners, who donated money to purchase 24 Neighborhood Watch signs and, in exchange, get an ad in the e-mail alerts. Credit that idea to Mansker’s marketing background.
And neighborhood crime?
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but we have very few property crimes reported in our Neighborhood Watch area anymore,” Mansker said.
The former coordinator passed his job on to friend Kent Booth, giving the program “fresh blood,” as Mansker put it. “I have ultimate faith in Kent’s abilities,” he said.
Booth admits he has big shoes to fill, pointing out that Mansker has done more for the neighborhood than spearhead the Neighborhood Watch program. ”At Ridgeview Park last year someone had spray painted graffiti on the back of the Ridgeview Park sign.The very next day John came to the park with Goof Off and removed all the graffiti,” Booth said. “That was no small task.”
Mansker was also responsible for refurbishing, at his own cost, the Ridgeview Village sign near the top of Wilson Boulevard, Booth added.
Mansker shrugs off the praise and puts the focus back on the program, which he said he hopes will grow under Booth’s leadership.
Possibly reading Mansker’s mind, Booth was quick to provide his contact information. If you live in Ridgeview Village and want to be a part of Neighborhood Watch, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.