Former Councilman Starts a Neighborhood Watch

Steve Propes

Recently, a poster from organization dubbed SOCONA (South of Conant Neighborhood Association) on Nextdoor described a 2:15 a.m. encounter with “three males, wearing hoodies, on bicycles, loitering on the grounds of the St. Cornelius church at the corner of Bellflower and Wardlow,” who took off at a high rate of speed on their bikes, then split up and disappeared.”

Later, at 2:45 a.m., “one of the three was observed in the driveway of a resident on the 5400 block of Rosebay. When he saw our patrol, he again took off and disappeared. We found that the garage door was open,” so the SOCONA member contacted the resident, who had forgotten to close and lock his garage door. “It turns out that nothing was stolen but it appeared that the intruder saw the open garage door and was heading in that direction when our patrol drove by.”

The poster concluded with a reminder, “Before you turn in for the night, check to be sure you locked your car, your garage door and your home. Also, check for late night parcel deliveries and be sure your porch light is on. Last week our patrol noticed a late delivery Amazon package on a front porch and contacted the owner at 12:15 a.m. She was very appreciative.”

Turns out the poster of this “just the facts” style prose was none other than former Long Beach Ninth District City Councilman Jerry Shultz. Best known for his advocacy for the Long Beach Veteran’s Parade, solar power and a futuristic proposal for an automated parking garage for the airport, in 2003, Shultz was termed out of office. Shultz immediately moved to the Fifth District, where the retired L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy has resided since, his solar panels still in place.

“We started SOCONA six months ago. Last year, neighbors asked me if I’d start a neighborhood watch. Flower pots, work boots, garden hoses, small things, had begun disappearing.” Then his son, who owned a Prius, found that his catalytic convertor had been stolen. It cost more than the worth of the car. Three convertors had been taken the night before.

In November 2018, SOCONA held its first meeting St. Luke’s Lutheran Church at 5633 E. Wardlow Road. “The first meeting, 103 people came out. We now meet there the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.”

The South of Conant borders are Woodruff Avenue on the east, Spring Street on the south and Clark Avenue on the west. “I add additional neighborhoods. As we drive thieves out, they go to other areas. We follow them out of our area for half for a block. Our incidents of petty theft have gone way down.”

Shultz has been contacted by a Lakewood Village resident, whom he intends to help set up a patrol. He would also like to see El Dorado Park Estates have such a patrol.

“It’s not against the law to be suspicious,” said Shultz, who patrols in both daytime and midnight to three a.m. on some nights. “A guy walking in a hoodie and backpack, checking car doors is suspicious. Most of thefts are because people forgot to lock something. Someone stole 40 feet of copper wire and stole edge trimmers from an open garage. One couple left wedding gifts inside the car, forgot to lock the door of the car. That means they couldn’t send thank you notes to all the relatives.

“We let them know we’re watching,” said Shultz, who has a SOCONA logo on the door of his truck. He generally makes sure he doesn’t get personally involved in what he observes.

“Very few of these people are homeless,” said Shultz. “I’ve never seen a homeless person steal stuff. There’s a house on San Anseline Avenue that parents passed on to the kids. They invite their dirt bag friends and assemble at the house. It’s a den of thieves. They go out every night to steal stuff.”

After complaints, police began watching the house and conducted one raid. A detective told Shultz, if they caught someone with stolen property, they’d be cited, given a court date and would be free to go. A trip to the jail would never happen. “I don’t blame the cops,” said Shultz, “I blame the system that got this way.”

Shultz’s crew doesn’t carry weapons, not even pepper spray. If confronted, “we just drive away.” Police are not going to come out for a misdemeanor. Police have to deal with part one crimes. We don’t expect police to patrol like we do. “

Shultz had to be talked into running for city council by his neighbors. “I’m not a politician,” he said, so he didn’t run for a third term as a write-in. More recently, he was talked into his current watch role by his neighbors. “I’m just a softie, I guess.”


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