Residents fear new wave of crime

October 15, 2009 7:38:39 AM PDT
Some southwest Houston residents are going to have to dig into their pockets to pay for extra security. It's something they received this time last year for free. In a quiet neighborhood of wide streets and well-kept yards, where neighbors look out for each other and crime has traditionally been low, security is now top of mind.

"We border areas that have higher levels of crime and we have a number of older people as well as families that are concerned about burglaries," said Craig Murphy of the Maplewood Civic Club.

Burglaries like the one at a home in the Maplewood neighborhood three months ago, where the burglars struck on the day the homeowners moved in. No one in the house wanted to talk on camera, but many neighbors say they think more burglaries are happening.

Maplewood stopped paying for a constable patrol last November because less than half of the neighbors paid the $195 voluntary fee.

"I think it's unfortunate that not enough people paid so that we could have the security because I think we need it," said resident Melissa Dubowski.

So the board of the civic club came up with the idea that perhaps they could become a homeowner's association, a move that would give them the ability to levy a mandatory fee. That way the streets might get back a paid patrol.

"The Houston Police Department does a fine job but they don't provide a neighborhood patrol like those that are paid for by the neighborhood," said Phil Kunetka, Civic Club President.

Some Maplewood homes still sport burglar bars, put up in response to a series of kick-in burglaries in the 1980s, when the civic club began to pay for constables. The neighbors we talked to say they just want that security back.

"We're a victim of our own success, where people don't see the crime with their neighbors," said Greg Chilek, a civic club board member.

Chilek's wife, Teresa, said, "It's a nice community and we want it to stay that way."

The Maplewood Civic Club has a meeting next month to discuss the homeowner's association idea with the neighbors. They don't want the ability to foreclose on any homeowners, but they do want to get people to pay for something they are saying they want.

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