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Owners Gear Up for ‘Apartment Watch’

Times Staff Writer

About 100 San Fernando Valley apartment owners and managers met Wednesday night to learn more about “Apartment Watch,” a new program backed by the Los Angeles Police Department to reduce crime in apartment projects by using the successful techniques of the Neighborhood Watch program.

Police Cmdr. Mark Kroeker urged those attending the meeting at Van Nuys High School to consider implementing the program, which officials said is the first of its kind in California, because “a monumental amount of crime is apartment-related. We have to begin acting rather than reacting.”

Police say the Neighborhood Watch program has significantly reduced house burglaries in recent years, but the program does not cover apartment buildings.

Kroeker said 23% of burglaries occur in apartments and 32% of all rapes are “apartment-related"--they take place in an apartment, or the victim is kidnaped from or taken to an apartment.

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“We’re going to have to fight apathy, but I’m convinced we can have a fully crime-resistant society,” he said.

Some of those attending, however, said the program will have to overcome the lack of interest by apartment dwellers in such Neighborhood Watch basics as getting to know their neighbors and familiarizing themselves with each others’ routines.

“I’m going to push it because we’ve had a lot of problems in the past, but it’s really going to depend on how much cooperation I get from tenants,” said Christine Longato, who owns an apartment development in North Hollywood.

Others were more optimistic.

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“I would like to contact someone about this tomorrow morning, because it would be a load off my back,” said Bill Hoy, who manages 14 apartment buildings in Canoga Park.

Police give credit for originating the program to Diane Wood, a civilian volunteer worker in the Neighborhood Watch Program at police headquarters in Van Nuys. Wood is assistant executive director of the Apartment Assn. of the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County.

The association represents 3,000 owners of apartment buildings in the San Fernando Valley, 23% of the total, and about 500 in Ventura County, a spokeswoman for the association said.

The Apartment Watch program will try to get tenants to recognize their neighbors and encourage building managers to keep track of those who gain entry to developments by saying they are meter readers or are making deliveries, Wood said.

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