Neighborhood security issues were the chief topic of discussion at the PHCA Quarterly Meeting January 22 at the Spirit of Elijah Church. The approximately 25 members in attendance also considered various fundraising ideas and social events.
Although Piscataway Hills is statistically a very safe neighborhood, thefts and other incidents do occur sporadically. A rash of stolen automobile rims erupted last year, for example, and an earlier series of shed break-ins also caused alarm. Recent thefts from mailboxes were also mentioned.
PHCA Board Member Neil Ayers presented a status report on planned security initiatives, particularly the formation of a Neighborhood Watch. To establish a police-recognized Neighborhood Watch program and receive official signs, Piscataway Hills would need a minimum number of committed volunteers and block captains, Ayers said. Volunteers should contact George Sattherthwaite at 301-292-2312 or Joni Jones at 30-292-9558.
Board members anticipated that Neighborhood Watch volunteers would perform 15-30 minute patrols around the neighborhood several times a month, perhaps totaling about 2 hours per month. Such neighborhood sweeps could be on foot or by car. The idea was raised that cars could have magnetic flashing lights on top to increase visibility. Ayers said he hoped to have the Neighborhood Watch begin operating by this summer.
Progress was also reported on developing plans for neighborhood surveillance cameras.
President Gwynn Roberson circulated information on surveillance systems that would cost $1,600-$2,000, not including installation, and include up to four cameras. She suggested that cameras could be installed at the entrance to the neighborhood (through which all vehicles must pass), at the Piscataway Hills Waterfront Park (Lot 39), and maybe at isolated locations such as the end of Pine Road. Signs would be prominently posted about the cameras to deter criminals from entering the neighborhood. Further plans for the cameras and more precise cost estimates are to be presented at future meetings.
Security at the Waterfront Park is to be enhanced by changing the lock on the gate (see separate article). It was noted that the current lock has been in place for more than 10 years, and that PHCA does not know how many people now have keys. As a result, the PHCA Board announced that the lock would be changed in March, after residents have been notified, and that it should be changed regularly in the future, perhaps every three to five years. Residents can continue getting free keys by contacting a PHCA board member.
The chief fundraising action announced at the meeting was the establishment of annual fees for keeping boats at the Waterfront Park canoe rack (named for former Board Member Leo Morawsky). In addition to raising money, the fees would free up spaces on the rack, which is currently full. “There are boats that have sat there for years,” not being used, Roberson said, adding that some may have been abandoned by residents who have moved away. (See separate article for fee details.)