Anti-Crime Effort : Numbers on Roofs Help Aerial Police

Times Staff Writer

To help police helicopter crews read addresses from the air more easily, residents of the Orange Heights neighborhood have had numbers painted on 45 rooftops in the area.

"This will help us a lot," said Lt. Gary Bennett of the Pasadena Police Department. "If a burglary is in progress and the helicopter unit responds, it's pretty tough to get there quickly when we have to decipher addresses painted on curbs."

By the time the project is completed, 15 more roofs will be painted and plans to paint apartment roofs will be made, according to Keith Speaks, anti-crime committee chairman of the Orange Heights Neighborhood Assn.

14-Square-Block Area

The painted roofs lie in a 14-square-block area between Mountain Street and Washington, El Molino and Los Robles avenues. Every fourth house in the area will be marked, Speaks said.

"Orange Heights is hit pretty hard by burglaries. Everyone here has either been burglarized or has a neighbor who has been," said Speaks, whose home was burglarized four years ago. "If this project helps the police get to us quicker, then it'll be a success."

According to the most recent Police Department figures available, 41 burglaries occurred in the Orange Heights area during the first three months of 1984.

"Something like this will deter burglars from hitting the area," Bennett said. "They'll see that extra steps are being taken to insure that burglaries and vandalism are prevented and they will stay away."

Give Ground Locations

The painted numbers also will help the helicopter unit locate fleeing suspects, Speaks said. "It'll be easier for the helicopter crew to give the police on the ground the exact location of suspects if they are running through backyards or hiding," he said.

Although other Pasadena residences have numbers painted on their roofs, this is the first organized effort by community members, Bennett said. It is too soon to tell how effective the project will be in deterring crime in the Orange Heights area, he said.

"There are a few homes in Pasadena that have numbers on the rooftops, but because it was done on an individual basis, no set guidelines were followed," Bennett said.

As a result, some of the numbers cannot be read from the air because they were painted too small or with the wrong kind of paint.

The Orange Heights Neighborhood Assn. used yellow paint--the same paint used to mark yellow traffic lanes on streets--and made the digits large enough to be seen from 500 feet above the ground without binoculars, Speaks said.

The numbers were applied by a commercial painter using stencils and a spray rig. Only the rear slopes are marked, thus avoiding complaints about affecting the aesthetics of home fronts at ground level. Digits, painted in strokes 6 to 8 inches wide, are 36 to 42 inches tall. To make the numbers readable at night, reflectorized glass beads were sprinkled onto the paint before it was dry.

So far, all the roofs involved are of shingle or shake composition, but there are some tile-roofed homes in the neighborhood.

"We followed the guidelines the helicopter unit gave us," Speaks said.

Funds Collected

The Orange Heights Neighborhood Assn. began collecting funds for the project last May after viewing a Police Department slide program on crime prevention.

Most residents whose roofs were done paid for the job themselves--$45 for single-story homes or $55 for two-story homes. Some residents donated money for the project even though their roofs were not painted, while others donated their time telling neighbors about the project, Speaks said.

"People in the community really joined in on this," he said. "We want the people who are burglarizing our homes to know that we are serious about protecting our property."

Speaks said the neighborhood association does not want to be known as a group of vigilantes with a fortress mentality, but rather as community members who want to work with the police to decrease crime in their area.

"The police are doing a good job, but it's important for us to look out for one another, too," he said.

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