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Los Altos Hills residents launch neighborhood watch groups

neighborhood watch group
Courtesy of the Town of Los Altos Hills
A graphic demonstrates how the Los Altos Hills neighborhood watch program structure works.

As a Los Altos Hills resident for 35 years, Dru Anderson has more or less become the default emergency contact within her Saddle Mountain neighborhood.

“I was joking with one of my neighbors who all of a sudden had a major water leak,” Anderson said. “She wasn’t sure who to call and so I said, ‘Well, don’t you know: 1-800-CALL-DRU.’”

The correct contact, for the record, is the Purissima Hills Water District, but Anderson still embraces her role as the so-called expert of all things that “go bump in the night.” So it’s fitting she recently helped launch the Hills’ first neighborhood watch group officially affiliated with and anchored by town hall.

The groups are meant to supplement – not replace – law enforcement protection in the fight against crime. With direction from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and town staff members, participants learn what kind of suspicious activity to look for, measures for protecting people and property, and how best to reach help depending on the situation. They also learn who their neighbors are and how to contact and alert them.

Connecting with neighbors

Mayor Kavita Tankha said she initiated the process of starting the program a few years ago. She had noticed an uptick in crime within some Bay Area towns, but Saratoga did not number among them. So she requested a meeting
with Capt. Rich Urena of the Sheriff’s Office West Valley Patrol Division to find out why. He credited Saratoga’s neighborhood watch groups with making the difference.

“I think it makes sense, because the reality is when you have a neighborhood where people know each other and they know who lives next door and they’re connected, it’s probably the best way to identify unusual activity,” Tankha said.

With burglaries on the rise in town – 31 took place in 2020 compared to 21 in 2019 – Tankha ramped up her efforts. As mayor, she told her fellow council members the formation of watch groups should be a priority.

Annie Ju, a resident of Greenhills Court, learned about Tankha’s initiative during a Community Emergency Response Team meeting and decided to form her own group. Guided by town management analyst Cody Einfalt, she posted about the opportunity online on Nextdoor.

Ju said she’s been told groups of approximately 20 households are considered ideal, and she’s working to add ranks to the seven or so households that have thus far committed.

“One of the jokes we have is that we have bigger lots and they’re gated, and we just wave to our neighbors behind our gates,” Ju said. “That’s a joke, but that’s also partially true. A lot of times, people just live their own lives and there’s not as much interaction as some of the other communities. So I hope this will help people become more in touch with their neighbors. I just think it’s a very positive thing.”

To report emergencies and suspicious activity to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, call 911. To request a vacation patrol check, call the operations department at (408) 868-6600 or visit sccgov.org/sites/sheriff.

For more information on neighborhood watch groups in Los Altos Hills, including how to form one, call Einfalt at 947-2508 or email [email protected]

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