In these hurry-up days of ours, when we race from dropping off the kids on the way to work and finish our days driving into the garage, all too often we forget that we even have neighbors.
Maybe you'll see them on the weekend or at a soccer game. But there's not a lot of hanging out on the front porch (especially since many of our houses and condos don't even have them). And it's not often parents throw the baseball or football around in the streets after work any more where dads get to know the other dads and the athletic ability of all the kids on the block.
Think about your neighborhood. Do you know the people on either side of you? Do you have their phone numbers in case of an emergency and know what kinds of cars they drive or what time they usually get home from work? Do you let them know when you're leaving on vacation so they'll keep an eye on things?
Simple, you say? But perhaps there's more to the simplicity. Consider it an element of protecting yourself and community from crime.
Nearly 200 people turned out in Carmel Valley last week to let police know how concerned they were that a neighbor had been accosted in her garage.
What, they asked, are police doing? What, they asked, can they do?
The fact that chief of police, his assistant and the area commander turned out for a special meeting shows the department cares. They answered questions and offered advice on what to do if a burglar confronts you and whether to hire a private security firm.
"You're much better off with a Neighborhood Watch," said Capt. Kathy Healey.
The underlying mission of the groups, which both the police and sheriff's department will help organize, is to help the police get a jump on crime. That extra eye on the street and knowledge that residents bring can help prevent crime, law enforcement officials say.
In the case of one San Diego neighborhood, an alert neighbor who noticed a stranger removing mail from their friend's mailbox led police to arrest a suspect who had several hundred pieces of mail in his car and a database that could be used to steal people's identities.
If you don't have time for another meeting and don't want to formalize the process, at the very least, take the time to get to know your neighbors. Develop an e-mail and phone list so if you see something unusual you can alert your neighbors and the police.
And if you do have the time, ask the officer who patrols your neighborhood how to set up a Neighborhood Watch group.
That one meeting you organize might save you and your neighbors from a crime down the road.