TURLOCK — The neighborhood watch has gone virtual in Turlock.
A Facebook group set up a month ago has taken the idea of neighbor helping neighbor online. In a little over a month, it has gained more than 460 members and is growing each day.
Founder Dani Love said she was prompted to start the group after encountering some problems in her own Turlock neighborhood. The Bay Area transplant moved here four years ago and was active on a similar Facebook group in her old hometown.
"Back where I lived it was very effective and has actually helped solve crimes and save a few lives," said the 26-year-old. "Virtual is the way to go these days and the fastest way to warn someone of crime in an area."
The Facebook group, Turlock Neighborhood Watch, was set up June 21. Members must be approved to join and can then start posting or commenting about things they notice or issues they've faced. Only members can access the page.
Unlike traditional neighborhood watches, where neighbors in the few blocks band together to look after one another, the Facebook group takes advantage of social media tools.
Members have posted when they've seen suspicious cars driving around. They've posted pictures of stolen bicycles, general safety tips and other public notices. It also has helped reunite four lost pets with their owners.
Turlock resident Cody Lee got involved shortly after the group was launched and is now a page administrator. This is the first neighborhood watch the 27-year-old has been involved with, real or virtual.
"I think it has been very helpful," Lee said. "It's a great way for the community to connect. With everything going social network these days, this gives people a chance to communicate. Everyone is able to pass a lot of information a lot faster than normal, and with people we might not connect with on the street."
'People are not aware'
Another one of the group administrators, John Mardakis, has more experience with traditional watches, having been involved in his neighborhood group for more than a dec- ade.
The 46-year-old said he joined the online group to spread the word about area crime and help residents protect themselves.
"I think a lot of people are not aware of how crimes are committed, especially residential property crimes around their homes," he said. "I want to help people know what to be alert for. I also want them to get organized and start their own little watches in their neighborhoods."
To help bridge online with the real world, group members will participate in a meeting with a Turlock Police officer involved with the city's neighborhood watch program. The meeting will be at 6:30 Aug. 19 at Turlock's Grace Anglican Church, 180 S. Denair Ave., and is open to all interested community members.
Grace Anglican Rev. Gerry Grossman, who is a member of the Turlock Neighborhood Watch, set up the police meeting. He has also been a Turlock police and fire chaplain for the past three years.
"This is just a matter of people in neighborhoods watching out for each other," he said. "It brings the idea of a watch back, yet spread all over town."
The goal for all involved in the group is to gain more members.
"I think it's going really well so far, but I'd like to see more people involved," Lee said. "The more people involved with it the more efficient we'll be in watching out for neighbors, loved ones, houses, property, everyone."
For more information or to join the group visit www.facebook.com/groups/Turlockneighborhoodwatch.