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Awards Presented to 2 South Bay Residents, Police Unit : Neighborhood Watch Catches Governor's Eye

October 16, 1986|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

A Palos Verdes Estates woman, a Manhattan Beach publisher and the Redondo Beach Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit received three of the 12 Governor's Crime Prevention Awards presented this week.

Kay Finer, president of Palos Verdes Estates Neighborhood Watch Inc. and a police reserve specialist, said, "I was absolutely floored when they chose to recognize Palos Verdes Estates. It's through me, but it's still Palos Verdes Estates. . . .

"Much of the credit goes to the community itself. . . . I might throw out a few ideas, but it's up to the people to get interested and carry it out," she said.

But according to Police Chief Monte J. Newman, Finer does a lot more than just throw out a few ideas. She is credited with expanding the Neighborhood Watch program, writing and publishing its newsletter and starting a "Crime Phone Alert" system that has led to several arrests.

Telephone Network

When police are looking for a suspect they believe is still in the area, they call one or two people and give a description of the person and car and those people begin a phone tree. Within a short time, a large section of the community has the description and can help police pinpoint the suspect's location.

Finer wrote a proposal for a community services officer who would organize and promote crime prevention programs, prepared a budget for the position and rallied community backing. Last month, the City Council gave approval and funding for two officers to work on community services on an overtime basis.

Finer also has fingerprinted children, attended seminars in Sacramento and even directed traffic.

"I'll come to work at 8 in the morning and she's been there since 6," the chief said. Finer volunteered more than 2,100 hours during the past year and spent thousands of dollars of her own money for a computer and other supplies, he added.

'110% Person'

"When you think of Neighborhood Watch, you think of Kay Finer," he said. "If we had more people like her in our community, I think a lot of the problems in California would be solved."

"I've always been a 110% person used to working 12 to 14 hours a day," Finer said. Several years ago, she quit her job as vice president of a New York-based clothes design firm to start a family. She realized, however, that "I had an awful lot of energy left," so she channeled it into Neighborhood Watch and has been president since 1983.

The new community services officers should take over a lot of Finer's current responsibilities, which she hopes will give her more time to expand the Neighborhood Watch program--1,500 of the city's 5,500 households now participate--and more time to spend with her family.

"There are those times when I'm on a deadline and my daughter wants me to play with her, and I desperately want to play with her, too," said Finer, who often works at home. But if the community and its children are safer, she said, "then the time invested is worth it." She is especially proud of the city's 33% decline in residential burglaries from 1984 to 1985.

Involvement Important

Citizen involvement is especially important now that so many police departments are facing cutbacks, said Rodney J. Blonien, undersecretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency and emcee at Tuesday's awards luncheon. Gov. George Deukmejian was not there because he was campaigning for reelection, said Vance Raye, the governor's legal affairs secretary.

The Redondo Beach Crime Prevention Unit received a Governor's Award for its "complete crime-prevention program," which includes 5,000 Neighborhood Watch participants. The unit, staffed by four civilian crime-prevention specialists, one sworn police officer and three to 10 volunteers, offers 92 community service programs, addressing topics such as child abuse, domestic violence, school safety and earthquake preparedness, said Karen Brown, unit supervisor.

The unit's deaf-awareness program reached about 26,000 people in 1984 and 1985, and the unit has put together a 13-minute video that teaches police officers the basics in communicating with the deaf, she said. It will be distributed statewide.

But Brown said she is most proud of the unit's school safety programs, which includes Officer McGruff--a national cartoon symbol that teaches children how to "take a bite out of crime"--and the positive effects they have had on children. After presentations, children often have revealed to parents or teachers that they have been abused, she said.

Redondo Beach had to give its Governor's Award back after the ceremony, but only temporarily. Deukmejian's named was misspelled.

Richard Frank, publisher and managing editor of the Beach Reporter, received the Governor's Award for the print media for the Manhattan Beach paper's regular articles on Neighborhood Watch programs, and weekly reports on the location and frequency of crimes in the city.

The Beach Reporter also prints and distributes the Manhattan Beach Police Department's quarterly Neighborhood Watch newsletter free.

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