By Rusty Bradshaw
Summer and the hot temperatures that go with it are here and winter visitors are not, but that does not slow down the Sun City Posse.
The all-volunteer organization continues its variety of community service programs, and continues to grow its numbers. Danny Moore, Posse operations officer, said during the group’s July 3 general meeting operations are running smoothly so far during the summer.
“We are keeping busy, despite fewer people being here,” he said.
Posse officials ordered two new 2019 Ford Explorers to replace vehicles that have aged out, according to Mr. Moore. They will also thin the fleet a little by disposing of two vans, Crown Victorias and one other vehicle.
“We should be able to sell them to get something out of them,” Mr. Moore said.
The Posse also continues its general membership meetings 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at Posse headquarters, 10861 W. Sunland Drive.
Call 623-972-2555 or visit www.suncityposse.org for more information on any of the Posse’s many programs.
Of particular focus for the Posse during the summer are the Block Watch and Vacation Watch programs.
While Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is working to beef up Block Watch programs in its District 1 (East Valley) and District 2 (Southwest Valley) areas, the Sun City Posse Block Watch program is up and running.
“Our program has been strong for some time,” said Toni Ashby, program coordinator with Jean Schmitt. “We are working to connect with their (MCSO) program coordinator to see what they can offer to help us improve.”
Block Watch is designed for residents to learn what is routine in their neighborhoods and be watchful of things that seem off, according to Ms. Ashby. She related, during a November 2017 community meeting, an incident where things were not as they appeared.
Landscapers were busy working on a property on Dawn Lake. Three men are raking leaves, mowing grass and trimming bushes and trees. All appeared quite normal.
But all the while a truck that appears to be a landscaping company vehicle is backed into the driveway right up to the garage door and others are emptying the house of its contents.
“An active Block Watch has been proven to be a deterrent to crime,” Ms. Schnitt said during the November meeting. “That is especially true if an entire block is participating. Awareness is our best defense.”
The Posse has coordinated the program for years and a number of neighborhood watches remain active. Ms. Ashby said last week the program includes just more than 100 Block Watch groups. But Ms. Schmitt and Ms. Ashby want to see more neighborhoods sporting the distinctive Block Watch signs in home windows and on light poles.
“This program is offered free of charge,” Ms. Ashby said.
Block Watch is not designed to be a neighborhood patrol with residents acting as police or vigilantes. Rather, it is designed for neighbors to get to know each other and their habits so they can recognize things that are out of place in the neighborhood, according to Ms. Ashby. Residents sharing their daily life information with their neighbors helps establish what is normal in a neighborhood so things out of the pattern can be spotted, Ms. Ashby said.
The Posse has resources that helps Block Watch participants know what information to gather in suspicious circumstances, Ms. Ashby said. The agency’s Block Watch office at Posse headquarters is open 10 a.m.-noon the first and third Tuesday each month. When a resident requests Block Watch information, they are given a captain’s folder and, when a Block Watch group is formed, a meeting is scheduled to discuss the goals of the program, according to Ms. Ashby.
“A Block Watch can have as few as two members or more, ideally up to 20,” Ms. Ashby said. “But there is also no maximum number of group members.”
While most Block Watch introductory meetings are conducted in homes, meetings for larger groups can be conducted at the Posse headquarters, Ms. Ashby said.
She added another program goal is to establish a communication network with all Block Watch captains to disseminate information about a wide variety of issues when they occur in the community.
The Posse also offers its Vacation Watch program for residents who are away from their home for extended periods of time.
While the program is offered year-round, summer is the busiest time. However, program enrollment remains steady, according to Barbara Craft, program coordinator.
“We did more than 20,000 Vacation Watch patrols in 2017, and it seems on pace for about the same number this year,” she said.
Sun City residents who want to participate in the program must be gone at least one week and their residence must not be listed for sale. As with Block Watch and other Posse programs, there is no charge for Vacation Watch.
“We do accept donations, though,” Ms. Craft said.
The Posse is funded entirely through community and resident donations.
To sign up, residents must fill out a Vacation Watch card each time they plan to be away. Ms. Craft said requiring a card each time reminds residents to sign up. Cards should be received at least seven days before residents leave.
“We go by the home the day after they leave, then do frequent patrols while they are gone,” Ms. Craft explained.
The program has a full staff and is operated throughout each week.
“We are very busy, but the reception (from residents) is very good,” Ms. Craft said.
Vacation Watch cards are available at the Posse headquarters and all of Sun City’s recreation centers and the Sun City Visitors Center at Bell Recreation center, 16820 N. 99th Ave.
“We can even mail you a card if you give us a call,” Ms. Craft said.
Vacation Watch request cards need to include a name and phone number of a local resident with a key to the house, an emergency name and contact phone number (not the keyholder), address and phone number where the requesting resident can be reached while they are away and identification of any vehicle permitted to park in the home driveway.
Residents are then asked to call the Posse upon their return.