"Blowing the living daylights" out of police whistles is the latest weapon Fresno apartment dwellers have found in the war on crime.
Whistles have been handed out to residents of an entire apartment complex so they can warn each other and the police when a crime is being committed. Sheriff's officers believe their "whistle-stop" program is the first time anywhere an entire neighborhood has been given police whistles.
At first, apartment manager Leslie Cooper was opposed to all her tenants wandering around with whistles. But a rash of car burglaries in the complex caused her to change her mind and support the new crime-fighting tool.
"If you start blowing the living daylights out of a whistle, they're bound to leave," said Cooper. "But the children need to know it's not a toy."
Abigayle Huxley, 22, relies on her whistle and a can of Mace to ward off criminals but doubts the whistle would be practical for her young children to use.
"My daughter doesn't carry one--she loves to blow whistles--and my son's not old enough to understand," she said. "If they get in trouble, I tell them to run to a neighbor or scream."
Another resident, J.R. Johnson, 28, said he'll give a free whistle to his girlfriend but doesn't need one himself.
"Do you think I need a whistle?" he laughed. "I can handle myself and anyone else who has a problem here."
So far, free police whistles have been given to residents of one apartment complex, but other whistle stops are planned both in metropolitan Fresno and in rural areas.
"We've got requests from all over," said Deputy Dan Furtney, head of the crime prevention unit. "One complex ordered 200, and we've got an entire street of people who wanted them for their block."
If someone spots an intruder, the idea is "to blow their whistle, and then anyone who hears it opens their window and blows their whistle, too," Furtney said.
If the program becomes popular enough, everyone in the Fresno area might own a police whistle someday, Furtney said.
The Sheriff's office developed the program with the Fresno County Neighborhood Watch Assn., which has sold about 2,500 whistles to individuals in recent years, but not to entire neighborhoods. President Dorothy Stanton said the old-fashioned alarm system shows people "how simply they can protect themselves."