Mayfield Heights' Neighborhood Watch program got its start because one woman had enough of crime on her street.
Helen Cain said three incidents in a row on Elmwood Avenue convinced her it was time to take action.
"One summer weekend, there were three incidents that occurred right on my block," she said. "A pizza girl got set up and robbed. Two of my little girlfriends, as I call them, were lured to a car. Fortunately, they reacted in a proper way – they ran home. But their parents did not call the police. The third was a senior strolling one night at the park around the corner. He got jumped by some guys who approached him to rob him.
"I decided enough was enough. I said to the cops that were here, 'Do you have any type of group like a block watch.' They said I had to call the chief," Cain said.
It took awhile to get the group started, said Cain, who credits Detective Joe Leskovec with taking charge and making it what it is now – a model program that has drawn interest from area communities considering similar efforts.
Formed in November 2009, Neighborhood Watch has grown to a membership of more than 100 residents on 37 streets. Each month, a number of them attend a meeting with Leskovec and Sgt. Robert Bandelow, head of the traffic bureau, to talk about burglaries, suspicious activities, scams or whatever other concerns they have.
"We've come a long way," Cain said. "I'm really proud to see where it is now."
Helen and her sister, Ginny, were named co-Citizens of the Year in Mayfield Heights in 2011 because of their work with the Neighborhood Watch program.
"My purpose for this was not for any personal gain," she said. "Do what you can to help one another, that's my philosophy."
Cain said it's in her nature to be active and try to bring about change.
"I've been out there. I've burned my bra. I was always out there, but I was a pacifist," she said.
It's important for people to be involved in their community and to help police, because officers can't be everywhere, Cain said.
"Police are there for a reason. You should never be afraid to call them, even for what seems like little things. Call them right away," she said. "You take the good with the bad. I try not to be judgmental. You try to educate people, but there will still be the ones who don't do anything. They think that if it doesn't affect me personally, why bother?"
But for those who get involved, there's a sense of satisfaction from making your neighborhood a better place to live, she said.
"It makes them feel good about themselves, perhaps, that they're doing something good for the city," Cain said.