A night for Morro Bay to 'stand together'

Judy Salamacha
Judy Salamacha

Jen Valeri and Cindy Betonte are Morro Bay residents who met while walking their dogs. 

They agree that knowing their neighbors and being mindful of something unusual happening in one’s neighborhood is an excellent way to prevent crime. So they joined Morro Bay Neighborhood Watch and hope more residents will attend its monthly luncheons at 11:30 a.m. each second Thursday at Dorn’s Original Breakers Cafe. 

The group has no membership fee. Members discuss area crime trends and crime prevention tips, and plan three Neighborhood Watch-sponsored events: the Emergency Vehicle Show, National Night Out and Caroling Cops.

Morro Bay police Chief Amy Christey said the women brought fresh ideas to the group that’s led by longtime police volunteer Charlie Rose. Betonte explained she’d read about Nextdoor.com and thought it was a good way to connect with neighbors. The private online message board encourages “talk” within specific neighborhoods. 

“It’s one more tool in our community toolbox to get the word out about alerts and neighborhood watch activities,” Betonte said. “Recently, someone lost their dog. Another saw the post on Nextdoor.com and passed it along. The dog was found. Involvement is spreading in Morro Bay. I’ve counted at least 180 neighbors who have connected in various parts of the city.” 

The second Morro Bay National Night Out is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Del Mar Park. 

Betonte developed and maintains the website, and Valeri, a graphic artist, produced the poster.

For 31 years, police departments have invited neighbors to join them for activities on the first Tuesday evening of August in celebration of America’s National Night Out Against Crime. Including Morro Bay, more than 37 million people in 16,124 communities throughout all 50 states are expected to participate. 

Christey said the Morro Bay event is free and includes hot dogs, drinks, sodas and games. Betonte reminded everyone to bring a dish to share with their neighbors. A Razor cycle will be given away in a free drawing. Besides Morro Bay police, safety partners scheduled to attend include Morro Bay’s fire and harbor departments, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Coast Guard and Red Cross.

By example, Christey has encouraged her officers to mingle among the residents on foot patrol. She’s convinced that it fosters stronger community support to prevent crime, which is preferred to her first week on the job when a drug-related honey oil lab exploded and the department apprehended a suspect in a downtown bank robbery. 

“This is a night for Morro Bay to stand together to promote awareness, safety and neighborhood unity,” she said. “National Night Out showcases the vital importance of public safety-community partnerships and citizen involvement in keeping our community safe.”