Missouri City’s First Colony residents unite against crime

By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Star

Standing at the back of the Hampton Inn meeting room crowded with residents from the First Colony neighborhood and Missouri City Police, the young man was still visibly shaken from the theft of his mother’s property on her street.

He’s lived in the neighborhood for 16 years without incident, he said. But someone shattered his family’s sense of safety when they broke into his mother’s car parked on the street. “You don’t feel safe and can’t sleep when that happens,” said the young man who did not want to give his name. “I leave my home now and worry about what is going on while I’m gone.”

He was among more than 40 residents who left their homes Tuesday night to talk with police and neighborhood officials about getting organized against neighborhood crime. Over the last couple of weeks there has been an increase in driveway robberies, car burglaries and garage thefts. The gathering was organized by Missouri City resident Howard Moline who was dismayed to learn someone followed a resident home, rushed up behind him as he entered his house and tried to push his way into the home.

The homeowner blocked the suspect who fled. But word and fear spread quickly. Moline decided to take action and organized a community meeting. City and neighborhood officials responded quickly.

With his hands on his hips, Missouri City Police Chief Mike Berezin surveyed the room of residents seated before him in anticipation. Armed Missouri City Police officers, detectives and police supervisors stood in the back of the room ready to answer questions and give crime prevention tips.

Berezin tapped his duty belt that includes his gun. “You know with all the police equipment on this 30-pound belt, our strongest weapon is sitting right here. It’s you. Your city is not lost,” said the Chief.

That was good news to Moline who was thrilled with the turnout. Crime is deterred when people know their neighbors, report crime and suspicious activity and get involved with police programs such as The Neighborhood Watch and Silent Partner, said the chief.

Under the Silent Partner program, police partner with residents who have exterior video surveillance camera on their homes. Under the voluntary program, residents register their cameras with police and if a crime occurs police ask them to view footage and share with police. “Knowledge of cameras in and around the city would save us valuable time during investigations and could help in apprehending offenders,” said the chief.

In fact, footage from one Missouri City woman’s camera helped give police a good view of a man arrested for breaking into garages.

Berezin said he understands residents’ concern. “I don’t want to make light of someone invading your personal space,” the Chief said.

More than 30 years ago someone broke into his home and it still affects him. It’s partly why he pursued law enforcement.

“But don’t live in a state of fear,” Berezin said. “If you focus on nothing but fear of crime, you miss a lot of opportunities.”

He urged the residents to get to know one another and to help serve as the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. ”Who knows your neighborhood better than you? Call us if there is someone you have never seen before and they don’t look like they belong,” he said.

The First Colony neighborhood of nearly 400 homes has numerous tree lined streets creating a canopy of beauty in the daylight, that envelops the community in darkness at night. Neighborhood leaders are now investigating if the trees are making it easier for criminals by blocking street lighting. While thinning out the trees is not a good option, neighborhood association executive director Casey Kelley said he would consider removing some trees with the approval of property owners.

He also noted that residents could install motion detector lights as long as they are not shining onto a neighbor’s home.

Moline said he was thrilled with the turnout as residents gathered in clusters getting reacquainted. “Probably one of the best things about this meeting was the feeling of unity and purpose we all had. Everyone here wanted to do something constructive about the crime spike we’ve been having and many made positive comments, including the residents,” said Moline.

As they discussed security measures in an open question forum, some residents who are licensed gun owners asked about their rights.

“I won’t tell you to shoot but you have a right to protect yourself, you don’t have to back down. When bad people try to hurt us, we have the right to protect and can use necessary force. If you shot him once and he’s coming at you, keep shooting. If he’s on the ground and drawing, keep shooting,” Berezin said.

There are multiple ways to protect yourself and get involved with your police department. Contact Missouri City Police Community Resource Sgt. Heard jheard@missouricitytx.gov or call 281-403-5825 to learn about the Neighborhood Crime Watch program training session for residents wanting to get involved.

– For the Silent Partner Voluntary Surveillance Camera Registration program. Contact Lt. Kevin Burleson at 281-403-8722.

-Nextdoor.com is a private social media network, sort of an electronic neighborhood watch tied to your email and home address. It allows residents to connect on everything from area crime to finding the best babysitter.

-www.Raidonline.com tracks neighborhood crimes

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