Real estate agents have begun a mobile Neighborhood Watch program in the hope of reducing crime in three adjoining cities--Cypress, Buena Park and La Palma.
Each of the 25 agents, who have car phones and display a bumper sticker warning that they are patrolling the streets, is committed to calling police when they spot trouble.
"It's a very simple program," said Pat Ochoa, president of the Assn. of Realtors, about Operation 1,000 Eyes. "We're just trying to make people use their phones and that's it."
Ochoa created the program after being approached by a "suspicious" man asking for money one night in December. He said he wanted to report the man to authorities but was unable to find a police officer on the street and felt frustrated about the incident.
"I wasn't victimized, but what about the next person?" Ochoa said. "It's better to prevent a crime by having police check things out than to be sorry later."
Ochoa said he asked real estate agents to join him in pasting bumper stickers, which display a cellular phone between a pair of eyes, on the cars they drive while cruising neighborhoods on business.
Ochoa, who lives in Cypress, said the stickers send a message to would-be criminals.
"If you know somebody's watching you, you're going to be very reluctant to commit a crime," he said. "And when you see the stickers, you'll know somebody's watching."
The 25 real estate agents enrolled in the program received a training class by Cypress police last month. They were given numbers to report suspicious activities and told to call 911 when crimes are taking place.
Another 25 agents are expected to join the program next month when training will take place at the Buena Park Police Department and, Ochoa hopes, another 25 will join two months from now when training takes place at La Palma Police Department.
Ochoa's goal is to recruit at least 1,000 agents for the program and expand it to include all cities in Orange County.
"We're an industry that knows the neighborhoods like your" mail carrier, Ochoa said. "It's our responsibility to keep the community clean by reporting graffiti vandals and other criminals to the police."
Cypress Police Chief Daryl Wicker said the program will help police.
"They're not some vigilante group patrolling the streets," he said. "It's more an awareness thing. They are learning to call us whenever they see something suspicious so that we can take appropriate action. This is really, truly creating a Neighborhood Watch on wheels by people who visit the neighborhoods."