Tony Belarmino: Facebook a distraction, but also a force for good

August 23, 2013 

— Social media is a bane or a boost to our society, depending on whom you pay attention to.

Several years ago someone in an email discussion group posted some pictures on Facebook, and that was my introduction to social media. In the last two years, I have looked at Facebook on a semi-regular basis.

Facebook is neither good nor bad, but neutral. I would guess that 80 percent of my Facebook experience is for entertainment, 10 percent for keeping in touch with friends and family and 10 percent for information. I have re-established contact with some cousins. Now my "friends" are people who belong to mutual organizations, family, and people I have actually met. Initially, I accepted friend requests from any Belarmino who lived in the Philippines. None was a long-lost cousin, so we are no longer Facebook friends.

Facebook is like sports, hobbies, TV or any other means of distraction or relaxation; if I am not careful, I can waste time better spent elsewhere.

A fact of modern society is that criminals have no limits on where they commit their atrocities. Let me offer this disclaimer: No matter what you hear or read, the criminal is always responsible for his own actions. It is not the victims' fault. I will also acknowledge criminals can be victims of other criminals.

No neighborhoods are isolated once the criminal element decides to steal, kill or vandalize, including ours. One of the best crime prevention tools is a well-publicized Neighborhood Watch program. Several years ago, some effort was made in our neighborhood to start a program.

Within the last month, thanks to an article in The Bee, I found out about a virtual program, a Facebook group, Turlock Neighborhood Watch. I joined.

I was pleasantly surprised at the content. There is the drama, speculation and political bickering evident throughout Facebook, but there is a lot of really good information. At least half of it is to warn people about potential crime. Notices about lost and found pets are included, but that's what neighbors are for.

Most of the information is about suspicious cars, bicycles and pedestrians cruising through neighborhoods. There have been warnings about potential scams. We are advised to keep our eyes open, use common sense and report things to the Turlock Police Department.

Nothing beats a real-life Neighborhood Watch Program. Monday, Father Gerry Grossman, rector at Grace Anglican Church, hosted a meeting with representatives of the Police Department. We were told how residents and police must work together to prevent and solve crimes. We were given a flier on crime prevention and a "Neighborhood Watch Citizen's Handbook."

The evening was worth the time.

Belarmino is a chaplain with the Assemblies of God Disaster Response Task Force and retired from county government. Email him at

Tony Belarmino

For more information on Turlock's Neighborhood Watch program, contact Michelle Backeroff, crime prevention officer, at

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