Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Katie Schwartz knew she needed to come up with an innovative way to prevent break-ins in the Madison Park neighborhood.
The southwest Charlotte community was hit with a rash of residential burglaries in July 2011, and residents grew fearful. Burglars continued to strike the neighborhood.
But Schwartz, the community coordinator for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Westover Division, devised a solution: The distribution of car decals to Madison Park residents to help police and residents. Such decals would quickly show whose vehicles belong and whose don’t.
The Madison Park Homeowners Association received a grant from the city of Charlotte to fund the stickers, which will be mailed to the more than 2,300 homes in Madison Park on Monday.
Martin Doss, the Madison Park HOA’s president, said he hopes residents will use the decals.
“Hopefully (with the decals) coming from us and the police, they’ll use it, because it really will help,” Doss said.
The sticker, which can easily be peeled off a vehicle’s rear window from the inside, is white with a green tree — the neighborhood’s logo — and underneath, the words “Madison Park” in green letters.
Doss said many of his neighbors have been affected by the break-ins, and that a year ago a man dressed in all black tried to break into his house from the back.
Ellen Stenstrom, who has lived in Madison Park with her husband and many pets since 1983, helped stuff information and the decals into envelopes Saturday morning.
“I think it’s going to make a difference at least to show what vehicles should be in the neighborhood,” she said.
Stenstrom said she is often suspicious of solicitors who pass through the neighborhood, and worries they might be checking out houses to break into later. “You have to be very vigilant about how they case your house and street,” she said.
Schwartz said she hopes the stickers also give residents more confidence to call 911 if they think something doesn’t seem right.
“I hate when people say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to bother you,’ ” she said. “Please call me.”
Schwartz said her division most recently took down a burglary ring that targeted Madison Park last November. Burglars would ring people’s doorbells and break in if no one answered. If someone was home, they tried to offer lawn services.
Schwartz advised that you shouldn’t open the door if someone knocks on the door when you’re not expecting company. Instead, let the person know you’re home and not interested. She recommended letting the person see you with a phone in hand.
Don Means, the HOA’s secretary, already has the decal on his car and can’t wait to see it on his neighbors’ vehicles.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s just a good thing all the way around.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; On Twitter: @lruebens
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