Of neighborhood watches and warnings

  • Dawn Fraser Kawahara / Special to The Garden Island

    The best neighborhood watch ever — in this case, a watchful labradoodle with a fearsome bark.

Lock? Latch? No need, I was told when first living and working on island. True, not many people locked homes or cars back then — that is, local neighborhood homes or cars (the more simple and nondescript the better), not necessarily vacation residences or rented transport.

Those in the last two categories were still considered “fair game” for stealing and plundering by local riffraff, which can be checked out by reading archived issues of Georgia Mossman’s very popular “Police Blotter” column, which listed her findings of illegal activity and law infringement gleaned from police reports. (The “Police Blotter” appeared regularly in The Garden Island for years, and eventually the “best” of the collected columns turned into an entertaining book for former staffer Mossman, a former news staff associate.)

Going against the casual advice of no need to lock or latch cited above, I was told that such was ridiculous in view of the fact that many of the past era’s local homes were so easy to break into that doing so would be of no value. “Someone who wants in is going to get in.” The (sensible) tropical trend to install many louvered windows to cool via breezes was given as an example.

The truth of this was absorbed when my youngest son found himself locked out one day and entered the house easily by removing latched screens, then slipping wooden louvers out of their frames and easing himself through.

However, I reasoned to myself, locked doors just might deter the opportunist, if not the purposeful burglar. And a neighbor might wonder if they saw a large television or other electronics or valuables being removed through such windows, especially at knee to hip level into a flower bed (!)…which brings me to the subject of the neighborhood watch.

In my youth the neighborhood watch was definitely the responsibility of what in our family was termed the NN, or Nosy Neighbor. The NN could serve as a boon or a nuisance, depending (This might hold true even today). However, today’s Neighborhood Watch is more organized, and may be electronic.

A few years back when I had become aware of the rash of burglaries which were thought to be drug-related crimes, I received an invitation via e-mail to join just such a neighborhood group. I curiously followed through, complete with user name and password.

This was not because I sought to protect the family jewels (the last of which disappeared in a daytime theft some 30 years ago when single and renting a studio some miles inland up Keapana near Valley House), but because I wanted to see how such an e-connected “club” might operate for the benefit of a particular area’s homeowners. Also, I knew the young man who initially kicked off the “Nextdoor Digest.”

His initial posting (besides the welcome) was a warning to watch out for a certain car with a license plate he spelled out that was “cruising the neighborhood” as if casing it. More people in our area began posting messages. Mostly they’ve been about lost beloved cats and dogs that resultantly became found — hooray.

One that caused me a chuckle centered on a peacock that had strayed. Blurbs on break-ins at a construction site arrived, and subsequent messages: free lemons; a missing pet rooster; where to purchase four new tires; where to get an electrician; seeking a reliable family doctor and — ditto – dentist; a solid bank; a gutter-cleaning service; a photo of specks (“used bug parts”) requesting identification and deterrent treatment; an announcement of a soup kitchen night and the Red Hat Ladies Luncheon; a request for a house cleaner … Oh, the list goes on.

My most recent favorites: “Help pirates and princesses find their way to candy this Halloween” with an invitation to join the Treat Map; and “Oodles of bamboodles,” which leaves me wondering if I should jump right onto the bamboodles wagon — after I’ve stocked up on plenty of trick-or-treat candy, that is.

The up- and fun side, indeed. But, sad to say, those days of no lock and latch are over for the most part. You just don’t know everyone who’s in and around your kuleana (territory) any more.

On the flip side, not everyone has invested in a garage door. Many are still the oldie, “car port-er” types. The openness of carports and their displayed contents is often the subject of incredulity with our Mainland family and friends when visiting. If they left “stuff” out like we in our neighborhood do, it would be long gone, they say.

I’ve been attempting to capture the scene in The Carport Rap: Coolers, snorkels/folding chairs/beach mats, slippahs/crab net snares/brooms and pails/jars, cans, old foil pans/weeder-feeder, shoe glue, nails/bird seed, bug spray, fishing poles/cardboard cartons, magazines/Hibachi, dustpan, garden tools …

And there you have it, Dear Reader. But the best protection of all if you’re really worried about your capital S Stuff disappearing when you’re out and about is — you guessed it — a great, territorial and barking watch dog.

•••

Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds. They share the passion of nature and travel to far-away places. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For further information, email her at tropicbirdpress@gmail.

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