Do You Know Your Neighbors?
As residents of Truckee and Tahoe we share many fortunes: beautiful surroundings, great communities, terrific recreation, and quiet and relatively low-crime towns. Familiarity with our neighbors is also one of our blessings-we know the people who live on our block and in our neighborhoods. We share errands with our neighbors, watch one another’s children and generally know the comings and goings around our homes.
Take the street I live on, for example. It’s in a great family neighborhood, and is a quiet dead-end street with lots of trees surrounding the houses. There are six homes on the street and three of them are occupied year-round. My neighbors are wonderful, friendly people, and we all help each other out.
However, I’ve come to learn that second homeowners, visitors and part-time residents don’t always engage in this way with their vacation home neighbors. Driving up to their second homes on Friday evenings, leaving on Sundays, and cramming in lots of activities in the hours in between, many of these part-time residents may feel they’re just too busy to get to know the full-time folks next door. Maybe they’re not concerned with preventing crime in Truckee or Tahoe, thinking, “It can’t happen here.” But visitors and second homeowners take heed – although crime in the High Sierra is not the norm, it does happen!
This spring, my full-time neighbors to the east of my home went on a vacation and asked me to keep an eye on their house. While I was diligently doing so, the house to the west of me that is owned by an out-of-town family, and vacant most of the year, was being occupied/squatted by a burglary ring!
What were the clues to my neighbors or me that thieves had invaded this home? The cars in the driveway were newer models and could have easily belonged to my part-time neighbors (of course, as it later turned out, they were stolen vehicles).
I never saw people coming or going but even if I had, I would not have had any way of knowing whether they were guests or family of my part-time neighbors. (Frankly, the people occupying the house could have been the homeowners themselves, since I have met them only once in the five years I’ve been in my home and couldn’t describe them if they were the only other occupants of an elevator I was riding in). The burglars didn’t have loud parties, didn’t disrupt the neighborhood, and didn’t skulk around the street late at night with masks over their eyes. In other words, there was nothing obvious for the neighbors to suspect.
However, the keen eye and expertise of the Truckee Police Department ensured that this burglary ring was discovered and arrests made. It turned out that these squatters had occupied the house next door for a full two weeks before being caught! The burglars had a stash of stolen goods in my neighbor’s house -items that were stolen from other second homes in the area. These alleged bad guys are now awaiting trial and things are once again quiet on our street.
I hope this true story illustrates the importance of knowing your neighbors. If my part-time neighbors had been in the habit of stopping by when they were in town, or calling when they let someone else use their home, then I or other neighbors would have suspected wrong-doing right away. As it was, the thieves had a long “visit” in my neighbor’s home to conduct their illegal operations before the Police caught up with them.
Truckee/Tahoe is a wonderful place to live and play. All of us-part-time and full-time residents, as well as visitors, enjoy a great community with beautiful scenery and low crime. Please, help us keep it that way by getting to know your neighbors! At minimum, you’ll have others keeping an eye on your home.
Who knows? You may even make a friend or two in the process.
Maia Schneider is a member of the Truckee Town Council and a former Mayor. She may be reached at email@example.com. You may contact the Truckee Police at 550-2323 for information on starting a neighborhood watch program in your neighborhood.
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