After five burglaries from July to August in the Silver Meadows neighborhood left many residents unsettled, one homeowner decided to initiate a neighborhood watch to deter future crimes in the area.

Amanda Brown returned to her 1203 Garth Dr. home after going out to lunch in mid-July. About two hours later, the 26-year-old elementary school teacher started toward the back door to let her dog outside.

That was when she saw the screen door lying on the floor. She ran back to her bedroom, bringing her 10-month-old son with her, and noticed that her jewelry boxes had been misplaced.

“Right away your heart just drops into your stomach,” Brown said. “You’re just in a complete state of panic running through the house to see what’s misplaced.”

Another one of her reactions was to contact her neighbors to let them know that someone had broken into her home. At the time, she didn’t know that another home on her street had been burglarized or that two more would be burglarized within the next week.

“That’s one of the reasons that I started this neighborhood watch – because I thought I was the only one it was happening to,” Brown said.

As the coordinator of the neighborhood watch, Brown decided to include Spaulding Drive, Garth Drive, Suzanne Drive and half of Silver Meadows Drive. Starting on a small scale, would make beginning the watch more manageable, she explained.

Joe Dora, 52, was another one the burglary victims. Early in June, someone stole roughly $2,000 that the Garth Drive resident had stashed in his desk. He purchased new locks and a new keypad for the garage door to make his home more secure.

The next month, someone slipped in as the Dora family slept, and stole his wife Sharon Dora’s purse from the counter.

“You’re just baffled. It goes from baffled wonderment to fury,” he said.

When Brown suggested the neighborhood watch, Dora jumped on the idea. He even created a neighborhood forum online where residents can share information about anything from suspicious activity to play dates.

The group, who decided to meet on a monthly basis, invited Lt. Paul Canfield to explain how a neighborhood watch should work at one of the recent meetings.

The most important role for residents is to be aware of what’s happening around them. They should also get to know their neighbors and the lifestyle patterns of those neighbors, Canfield said. If something seems amiss, they should call the police to report that unusual activity or person.

“Really what community policing breaks down to is an exchange of information between you and us,” he said.

Although this watch was created as a response to the string of burglaries, that type of activity has already ceased in the area. The real challenge will be whether it is able to continue without an immediate and obvious need for it.

“As soon as a specific problem goes away, the neighborhood watch goes away,” Lt. Paul Canfield said of his experience with these community efforts.

But that hasn’t been the case for the only other active neighborhood watch in Kent.

Cliff Bliss, 65, organized one in the Lakes at Franklin Mills development on the west side of Kent in January 2011.

After taking a course offered by the Kent Police Department that explained the purpose of neighborhood watches, Bliss was fascinated. By then the retired high school teacher wanted to do something to give back to his neighborhood, he said.

His neighborhood had no crime problem, but he decided the neighborhood watch could be preventative rather than reactionary.

“I like to think of it as neighbors helping neighbors to be safe and secure,” Bliss said.

Brown has a similar mission for the watch in her neighborhood, which is only two months old.

“My real goal was to meet my neighbors and to prevent any more crime from happening,” Brown said.

Lieutenant Paul Canfield of the Kent Police Department offered a few tips about how to keep yourself and your property safe, both on and off campus.

1. Lock your stuff

This advice is just as easy to overlook as it is to follow, said Canfield. Keeping doors locked at all times is one way to keep property secure. Car doors, garage doors and dorm doors should be locked, he explained. Even inside a closed garage, car doors should still be locked.

2. Know your neighbors

Canfield suggested people establish a good relationship with their neighbors. That way, neighbors can keep an eye on your property while you aren’t home, and you can do the same for your neighbors.

3. Pay attention

Rushing from work to class, checking your texts and updating your Facebook status all at once, leaves little time to take in your surroundings. Make a mental note when you enter a room of who’s around you, what they’re doing and what looks out of place.

4. When something looks out of place, don’t dismiss it

If something doesn’t seem right, look into it. If there still seems to be a reason for concern, contact the police. The usability of evidence and the solvability of a case are often tied to how quickly the police begin to investigate, Canfield said.

5. Protect personal space

This piece of advice is one that’s especially relevant to students. Allowing 100 strangers into your house for a party or letting someone you just met into your bedroom or dorm room can lead to serious trouble. “When you let people into your personal space, you make yourself a ready victim,” Canfield said.

Addresses of burglarized homes

7/3 1228 Garth Dr.

7/27 1203 Garth Dr.

8/1 418 Silver Meadows Dr.

8/1 1171 Garth Dr.

8/2 1177 Garth Dr.