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New Accent on an Old Concept

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tonight’s Neighborhood Watch meeting is on cable--and in Spanish.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s West Valley station has produced a one-of-a-kind Spanish-language video that aims to get Latinos involved in their neighborhoods.

The video, which debuted Monday, will play through the rest of the week on various public access channels in the area.

Sgt. Danny Mastro came up with the idea some time ago while thinking about how to involve his area’s growing Latino population in community-based policing.

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“I just thought, ‘Why don’t we do something special?’ ” said Mastro, whose various projects at the station also include a new program to give teddy bears to young victims of crime. “Why don’t we do something in Spanish that will grab a whole bunch of people?”

“We can’t have a community if we don’t know the rules of the game--how to take care of our children, how to protect ourselves,” said Alfie Martin, an actor who teamed up with Mastro in the effort after the two met at a community meeting.

The concept came closer to reality last January at a meeting of the Hispanic Outreach Program of Granada Hills Community Hospital, which Martin also was attending. Martin, a regular on public access television in Los Angeles and New York with his “The Alfie Martin Show,” also produces community-oriented programs.

Mastro got community members involved in planning the project.

“We did not want to make this a dictatorship from the LAPD,” he said.

The group, including retired high school principal Ed Moreno and Neighborhood Watch member Heidi Schumann, liked the idea because many immigrants are afraid to get involved, Moreno said.

Many are new immigrants who are afraid to call police even when a crime is committed against them, said Det. Patty Ferguson, who also appears on the video.

“They don’t have the [Neighborhood Watch] experience in their country,” Moreno said. “The more people learn about it, the more they are going to improve their community.”

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“They are less involved because they don’t know about it. There’s not even a translation for Neighborhood Watch,” said Officer George C. Aguilar, who helps oversee the program in the communities around his station. “But once they hear about it, they get involved.”

Set up as a talk show with Martin as host, the program was finally produced in an Eagle Rock studio in June.

In it, Schulmann, Aguilar and Ferguson take questions from Martin on everything from how Neighborhood Watch works to how police and residents can set up a Watch.

“The community alone can’t do it. But together we can,” Aguilar explains, between anecdotes of his experiences.

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The tape, which will be played from the Santa Clarita Valley to Glendale, Pasadena and Santa Monica, could potentially reach thousands, Mastro said.

Showings include tonight at 9 on MediaOne’s Channel 38 in the Hollywood area, Thursday at 9 p.m. on Century Cable’s Channel 3 covering Eagle Rock to Santa Monica and at 9:30 p.m. on TCI’s Channel 25 in the east San Fernando Valley.

Mastro said he originally intended the show to air only in the Canoga Park area. But Martin gave up his half-hour slots this week with the cable companies to make room for the video citywide.

People can obtain a copy of the video at the West Valley station, 19020 Vanowen St., Reseda. In time, the video may also be available at churches and libraries, among other places.

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“I hope the police will continue the effort--maybe other shorter videos on different topics, like what to do when the police stop you,” Moreno said.


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