YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The 374th Security Forces Squadron is recruiting Yokota residents for its budding Neighborhood Watch program.

“It’s a relatively new effort here and we’ve been gauging community interest for the program over the past year,” said C.J. Cavalier, a resource-protection and crime-prevention officer with the 374th Security Forces Squadron. “Right now, we have only a small amount of individuals that have expressed an interest in being involved.”

Neighborhood Watch, which is among the oldest crime-prevention programs in the United States, brings citizens together with law enforcement to deter wrongdoing and make communities safer.

“We are still in the infancy stage of getting this program started … but there are U.S. statistics that indicate neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch program have been successful in reducing local crime by as much as 70 percent.”

Recent Yokota statistics appear to suggest a local need.

In 2004 and 2005, 515 cases of theft, destruction and vandalism on base were reported, with damages totaling an estimated $120,000 in private property and $7,300 in government property, according to security forces officials.

Cavalier said at least 109 burglaries, larcenies or property damage have been reported so far this year. He estimated that from $12,000 to $25,000 has been lost in the first six months of 2006.

People apprehended for most crimes on base are ages 19 to 24, he said. Juveniles, usually around age 15, typically engage in graffiti and other vandalism, he said, adding, “The reason we estimate that is because we usually don’t find out about the graffiti until after the act has been committed.”

But Cavalier said that only about 30 percent of all offenders are caught and that the information that leads to those arrests usually comes from security cameras or community members, he said.

“It is imperative for all base residents to get involved in Neighborhood Watch because we need their help,” he said. “If base residents would get involved in becoming more aware of their surroundings … who belongs in the area and who doesn’t and reporting suspicious activity when they see it … we could reduce crime on Yokota significantly.”

Depending on the crime and individual’s status as active-duty military, civilian or dependent, punishment can range from community service to jail time, he said. For more serious incidents and repeated infractions, family members could lose status-of-forces-agreement privileges, be banished from base or face an early return to the United States.

Anyone who wants to get involved or get more information about Yokota’s Neighborhood Watch program is asked to contact the 374th Security Forces Resource Protection and Crime Prevention office at DSN 225-7244.

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