Neighborhood Watch groups gain popularity

Aaron Johnson is so serious about Neighborhood Watch, he has outfitted his patrolling neighbors with fluorescent T-shirts, black hats and clipboards.

The neighbors weren’t big fans of the fluorescent though, said Johnson, a Pacific Highlands Ranch resident. They prefer to be more undercover.

As a pair of home invasion burglaries in Carmel Valley has left residents spooked, more and more people are getting interested in starting their own Neighborhood Watch groups, according to Officer Gaylon Sells.

Sells said in the last month since the crimes, he has had at least a half-dozen calls to start up watch programs, not to mention around 350 requests to be added to his growing e-mail list.

Neighborhood Watch is one of the easiest ways to help keep your neighborhood safe, Sells said, just by being connected and aware.

“The mere fact of having neighbors who are security-conscious and who are paying attention to the goings-on in the neighborhood is extremely important,” Sells wrote in an e-mail.

“There’s nothing wrong with being nosy,” said Johnson.

“Look around, pay attention. You’d be surprised how many people just do not pay attention to their surroundings.”

To observe and report

A watch group is as active as it wants to be. Johnson, who is a security consultant, has his crew of 35 neighbors very involved. In addition to contributing the T-shirts, hats and clipboards, he wrote an action plan manual that goes over what to do in certain situations.

Each neighbor in the group also fills out an information sheet that asks about how many children they have, their ages, what kinds of cars they drive, contact numbers and expected deliveries or maintenance.

The main point in their manual is that the watch is there to “observe and report” - it’s not necessary to try to be heroes.

Johnson always keeps an eye out since he works out of a home office. When driving to and from his house, he’ll often take the longer route and do a loop around the neighborhood to check everything out.

They have a Google group online where they send out e-mails about things they’ve seen in the community. For example, they’ll note a weird car parked on their street for an extended period of time, a couple of juveniles loitering or an aggressive woman selling cleaning solution door-to-door.

Johnson and a business partner are hoping to launch a Web site by May 1 called carmelvalleyneighbor Once the site is up, it will offer blogs, statistics, documents and tips, he said.

It will also have a referral section for home-improvement work as well as landscaping so people can hire companies they can trust.

Anyone needing help starting a Neighborhood Watch can contact Johnson at

of Officer Sells at