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Brentwood's first video surveillance neighborhood deters major crime

By Paula King, Contra Costa Times
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 15--BRENTWOOD -- Despite a strong Neighborhood Watch Program and regular police patrols, Mike Hinchcliff's upscale Brentwood neighborhood was still experiencing a handful of major crimes annually. So, he banded together with fellow neighbors to add a third element of crime prevention.

After installing a neighborhood video surveillance system in spring 2013, the Sterling Preserve subdivision at the corner of Lone Tree Way and O'Hara Avenue has gone 16 months without any vehicle thefts, home burglaries or other major criminal incidents. Before the cameras were set up, there was a five-year stretch from 2008 to 2013 with three to five home burglaries reported each year among these 100 executive-style homes, Hinchcliff noted.

"They would come in waves, with three in a few days consecutively," he said. "Regardless of what we tried, we kept getting hit with these burglaries. We needed something to raise the risk level to the bad guys of coming in here."

Noting Sterling Preserve's success in thwarting crime, other Brentwood neighborhoods are now in the process of acquiring similar video surveillance systems. Hinchcliff said each household donated $100 each to purchase the cameras and 18 to 20 signs that are posted throughout the neighborhood and its park.

"This isn't about catching people in the act. It is about being a deterrent," Hinchcliff said.

Hinchcliff's efforts have inspired Brentwood resident Peggy Wheaton to bring cameras to her Los Ranchos subdivision off O'Hara. This fall, her neighborhood will install four surveillance cameras and multiple signs as a first phase of the project.

"It makes a huge difference. They (criminals) will go somewhere else that is easier to hit," she said. "You have to be vigilant. Criminals are everywhere. They are going to take advantage."

Wheaton moved out of Antioch because of increasing crime, and she wants her high-end Brentwood neighborhood to stay safe. She even has her own home surveillance system, which has helped halt vehicle break-ins in the area.

"It is not much money. It is a one-time fee," Wheaton said of the $150-per-home cost of installing neighborhood cameras and signs. "It is a cheap insurance plan."

Hinchcliff has presented information about how to get the cameras up and running to nine other Brentwood neighborhoods, including Rose Garden, and there's an upcoming meeting with the Shadow Lakes Homeowners Association.

"Their (Sterling Preserve) commitment to creating a safe environment for themselves and one another has had positive results and has been a catalyst for dialogue on this topic in other developments/neighborhoods in Brentwood," said Brentwood Community Service Officer Michele Keady.

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Hinchcliff said the video cameras are a much cheaper solution than gated entrances or other alternatives that were explored. He added said that ongoing proactiveness will keep crime rates low in all Brentwood neighborhoods, and his next goal is for Brentwood to become a surveillance city that can use video with criminal databases to track criminals as they enter the city.

"I moved to Brentwood to have a beautiful neighborhood and I saw this trend happening," Hinchcliff said.

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174.

or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.

___

(c)2014 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.contracostatimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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