Band of Neighbors

May 16, 2008 8:23:43 AM PDT
What are you doing to keep you and your family safe?A new Fresno company has improved a crime fighting weapon that fits in the palm of your hand and the residents and police in one troubled local neighborhood are already embracing it.

It used to be called "Sin City" and some of the people who live or come there are no angels. That's why every night Guadalupe Rangel pushes a couch against the front door of her apartment in El Dorado Park in Northeast Fresno.

Guadalupe Rangel said "Yeah, in case someone tried to get inside the house for the kids and for us mostly for the kids because they're small and we don't want anything to happen to them."

Aging apartment complexes cover most of El Dorado Park. Apartment manager, Ronnie Mosqueda, says his tenants call "him" not the police. Ronnie Mosqueda said "I deal with domestic violence, drug sales, loitering, car vandalism, break-ins you name it."

He's not exaggerating. The Action News Crime Tracker showed assaults, burglaries, and car break-ins during the past few weeks in El Dorado Park. Most people in El Dorado Park want change they want something better for their families. They already have what they need to make it happen.

"Change" starts with a phone call. Michael Wanke of Band of Neighbors made a call on his cell phone "This is Michael. I was just mugged at Bulldog and 6th by a white male with brown hair wearing a red shirt and black slacks and he ran eastbound on Bulldog. I've notified the police."

This was not a real emergency. It was a demonstration for El Dorado Park residents of a new phone networking service called "Band of Neighbors". Twenty seconds after recording it Michael's voice mail message was sent to the telephones of every member in his group.

If this was a real emergency Michael's neighbors would now be on alert before police arrive. Michael Wanke said "You see somebody running down the road with someone's purse and you can call police and give them follow up information."

Band of Neighbors lets you or any other member of your network record and broadcast a phone message to everyone in your neighborhood or business group and it does it with state of the art speed and technology.

Community activist Breana Uhirig said "I think of it as Neighborhood Watch on steroids you know, people looking out for each other and for the common good of the whole area."

Band of Neighbors is the brainchild of Fresno native, Bob Hayden. His basic idea for the phone service was "strength in numbers". Bob Hayden said "Really, the main goal is we're trying to prevent crime." Band of Neighbors will soon go nationwide with the help of the Central Valley Business Incubator.

The CEO of the incubator, Craig Scharton, believes the potential of Band of Neighbors is gigantic. Craig Scharton said "The effect that they'll have on neighborhoods, shopping centers, and downtown districts is going to be incredible. They're going to build community in places where it just didn't exist."

Fresno Police Captain Lydia Carrasco agreed. She's in charge of the officers on patrol in El Dorado Park who need information from the people living there. Capt. Lydia Carrasco said "I think it's a great idea for neighbors to communicate with one another and the program that they offer allows the neighborhood to do that." "We definitely embrace anything that's going to assist us in doing the work that we do."

As for residents like Guadalupe Rangel, Band of Neighbors may finally give them the extra security they desperately want. Guadalupe Rangel said "I think the program is going to be good for everybody." There is a fee, but everyone is working on a solution right now to make it affordable for residents of El Dorado Park.

Band of Neighbors already has several businesses in downtown Tulare signed up for their service.

www.bandofneighbors.com

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