HARKER HEIGHTS (September 1, 2013) - A rash of vehicle thefts in the Big Oaks Estates in Harker Heights along with other criminal activity has residents there fed up.
Peggy Mcdonald, property manager, has lived at the Big Oaks Estates for six years.
"It's all family oriented," Mcdonald said. "Everybody looks out for everybody."
But in 2012 and the months that followed, Mcdonald said the family feel began to fade. "At the beginning of the year and last year we had a lot of cars broken into," she said. "It was scary."
Soon the fearful calls from tenants were made to her office and to police. And her neighbors were left having to calculate their financial losses from the thefts.
Cheryl Chaney moved into the mobile home park a year ago thinking it was safe. But she said she got a rude awakening earlier this year after she opened her car door. "My middle consol here was open and everything was out of it," Chaney said. "My glove box was open and it had been rummaged through and there was stuff all over the front of my truck."
The thieves stole money from her vehicle. She said police were already on scene, as her neighbors also had their cars broken into. "I felt it wasn't completely safe," she said. "And that we needed to do something about it to make it safer."
Chaney along with seven of her neighbors re-launched a neighborhood watch program to look out for the tenants that live in the 157 unit compound. Since then crime has dropped.
"You're not going to get rid of all the crime, but it doesn't take too long for the word to get out that people are actually watching and getting involved in their community," said officer Dave Haley, Harker Heights Police Department.
Haley said police too often see numerous criminal activity reported in mobile home parks. "You'll see anything from break-ins to people trying to deal drugs here in the parks," he said. "Because of the quantity of people that live in close proximately of each other."
He said that's why Heights PD is trying to get other parks to do the same, and launch a neighborhood watch program. But informing the community of some of the neighborhoods that are being targeted by these criminals is just part of the police effort. Haley reminds the community to make sure that they lock their car doors, as thieves are simply opening up the vehicles and getting what they want from inside.
Meantime, Mcdonald said she is relieved that her park is once again working to get rid of the criminal acts in their area."If it's a suspicious vehicle, a suspicious person, we are going to a call (police)," she said. "Because we know they don't belong here."