Neighborhood Guard going Non-profit!

Hi Friends of Neighborhood Guard.Neighborhood Guard Logo

We have been doing a lot of soul-searching here lately, and Wednesday evening the Interim Board of Neighborhood Guard unanimously decided to turn Neighborhood Guard into a 501(c)3 Non-profit instead of a COOP as originally planned.

Why this change?

  1. A non-profit is easier to understand when we explain it
  2. Tax deductible donations (Yeah!)
  3. Simpler bylaws, less accounting headaches.
  4. Closer spiritually to our core values of Community, Security and Volunteering.
  5. We had already agreed to stay out of politics (a requirement for 503(c)3 non-profits) Continue reading

OpenOakland and Neighborhood Guard.

Last night I met some very nice people from the OpenOakland Brigade of Code for America, these are grassroots who volunteer their time to solve our city’s problems through the use of technology, within their framework there is a group focused on reducing crime through volunteering and the use of technology. Basically our kind of people. Continue reading

1 week to Nov 19 meeting and things are heating up.

This weekend Mayor Jean Quan mentioned us in her Newsletter

Libby Schaaf in front of sign

Libby Schaaf with a Neighbor

Libby Schaaf, Oakland City Council member for District 4  and a strong supporter of all crime reduction initiatives, will be joining us on Nov 19 to share her view on Community Crime reduction. http://libbyforoakland.com

We have been interviewed for the Montclarion so look out for an article by Maya Mirsky in the next edition (Friday Nov 16, 2012) Online version here.

This week we gave additional presentations to both large and small neighborhood ranging from 50 to 300 households.

We have additional presentations lined up for next week.

The list of neighborhood groups who: 1) has already joined, 2) are in the process of joining or 3) who are setting up organizations in preparation to join, contains more than 40 Neighborhoods all over Oakland, this is no longer just a Oakland Hills initiative. We have even more groups joining us every week.

We have received requests to show the Camera Presentation as part of our evening. Some groups have not yet had a chance to see the presentation, others have not seen the latest version. So we will start the evening with a short version of the Neighborhood Camera Presentation.

For the evening itself we need volunteers: We need someone to:

  1. Come a little early to help set up chairs
  2. Make sure everyone gets a name tag, and fills out the information sheet.
  3. But most important we need someone to bring home-baked goods like brownies and cookies to bring us all in a neighborly mood.

Here is the Updated Agenda for Nov 19.

  1. Introduction by Founder Jesper “JJ” Jurcenoks
  2. Importance of Community Action in Oakland, by Libby Schaaf
  3. Neighborhood Guard’s DIY Camera solution, with examples of Real Photos.
  4. What is a COOP and how would it work for us.
  5. Member Benefits
  6. Member Obligations
  7. Fee Structure Feedback round.
  8. Next Steps and Tasks Ahead
  9. Election of Interim Board / Filling of Critical volunteer positions:
    1. Chairperson
    2. Treasurer
    3. Secretary
    4. Members for the Bylasws / “legal” committee
    5. Members for the Pr & Marketing committee
    6. Members for the Web-master committee
    7. Members for the Recruiting committee
    8. Members for the Services committee
    9. Members for the Tech Support committee
    10. Members for the Software Development committee
  10. Open Discussion

Again we cannot wait to see a lot of concerned citizens ready to do something about crime  on Monday.

Suspicious? How to determine.

This is how you should determine if someone or something is suspicious:
Oakland Police will tell you to use your gut feeling, it is feel wrong then it probably is and you should report it.
Here are some examples that would be categorized as suspicious.
1) Any solicitor: City of Oakland requires a permit for people to go door to door and solicit anything from Gardening jobs to Collection to save the park. Anybody who knocks on your door who cannot present a City of Oakland Solicitation permit should be photographed with your cellphone and reported.
2) Any car that drives slower than usual, occupants that more interested in the houses or drive ways than the road in front of them. (sometimes making notes)
3) Any car that drives too fast (speeding away from crime scene).
4) Any person who hides or turns they face away from you when they notice you are observing them.
5) Any person carrying stuff that looks like loot, movers will handle stuff carefully – burglars will typically not.
6) Any person that is dressed or acting in a way that is unusual (peeking into windows), standing on a corner talking into a cellphone (lookout) etc.etc.
7) Cars parking in unusual places / blocking driveways (sometimes with engine running, doors open, and one driver on a cellphone)
When you report a suspicious person make sure skin color and race is part of the DESCRIPTION  –  NOT the REASON for the suspicion. (No racial profiling)
Oakland Police will log every report into their Compstat database and will be able to use your report as part of a detectable pattern, and depending on how your report fits into previous patterns they might decide to come by and they might not, in any case your information will be used by the police to capture criminals.
In this case over reporting is better than under reporting, there is no “cry wolf” effect here.
Have a safe weekend.
Jesper Jurcenoks

Visit By Captain Israel

Oakland PD Captain Jeffrey Israel comes by

Saturday was a big day for our neighborhood group, Captain Israel had seen our photos submitted as evidence to the Police and wanted to come by and see the system for himself.

He was greeted by the Chairperson of our neighborhood group and myself.

Captain Israel arrives, click to enlarge, you can even read the "CA EXEMPT" on the License plate.

Captain Israel arrives, click to enlarge, you can even read the "CA EXEMPT" on the License plate.

The first order of business was to show him our recording of him entering our neighborhood.

The Camera had been well hidden and he had not seen it.

The license plate was readable in all the photos.

We did a short demonstration of our system and discussed when it was prudent to call the police. Answer: Every time.

 Advice from Captain Israel

1) If someone knocks on your door at 3:00 am in the morning, call the police immediately, that is a time with low call volume, and typically the police will be able to respond right away.

2) If the Alarm goes of in the middle of the night and the burglars flee, call it in immediately, it is an attempted Burglary and needs to be logged in their database so that the police can determine criminal patterns.

3) For both incidents it is a great help for the police if the neighborhood surveillance photos can be tied to a police report number, so again make sure you report it every time.

Make sure your Camera are lit and visible at night.

Make sure your Camera are lit and visible at night.

4) When placing real or decoy cameras on the outside on your property, place it where it is lit at night, so that the criminals can clearly see the camera also at night.

5) Make sure your internal list of trusted license plates is up-to-date so that you don’t report a neighbor to the police.

Helping others

Captain Israel asked us to share our know-how with other neighborhood groups, and introduced us to another group which is about to start a neighborhood Camera Project. Naturally we agreed to help on the spot.

Last was the obligatory Photo Opportunity

Captain of Police Jeffrey Israel  and Jesper Jurcenoks

Captain of Police Jeffrey Israel and Jesper Jurcenoks

Sample Bylaws

The Sample Bylaws for a neighborhood security camera group are provided “AS-IS” with no warranty about suitability for a specific purpose or legal correctness whatsoever. It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure your organization is run correctly.

Please also read general information about bylaws on the post Making an Organization

==============================================================

<GROUP NAME> BYLAWS

  1. MEMBERSHIP
    1. Voting members will be residents from the geographic area of the <GROUP NAME>, which includes all <Street 1; Street 2 from X to Y> addresses.
    2. Participation in the <GROUP NAME> is completely voluntary.
  2. LEADERSHIP
    1. The Leadership Council consists of: a Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, a Crime Fighting Leader, an Emergency Preparedness Leader and <X> number of Block Captains,
    2. The Leadership Council will initially self-constitute an interim leadership council until first elections.
    3. A leadership member may serve in no more than two positions concurrently (from the aggregate of positions described in sections a. and b. above), Chairperson and Treasurer CANNOT be the same person.
    4. The Leadership Council will have full authority to coordinate the, including the authority to open and manage a bank account, sign contracts with vendors, receive and disburse funds, and manage any other business of the organization.
    5. Leadership Council meetings will be called by the Chairperson as needed, but at least once a year, and at least two weeks before the full <GROUP NAME> meeting at which elections are held. Any <GROUP NAME> member may request to attend a Leadership Council meeting.
  3. MEETINGS
    1. The <GROUP NAME> will meet at least annually or more frequently as determined by the Leadership Council.  Meetings will be held within the Oakland city limits.
    2. The general <GROUP NAME> meeting will be announced and the agenda, including approval of minutes, a chair, a treasurer’s report, crime fighting leaders report, emergency preparedness leaders report, reports from committees, elections and old and new business, will be publicized to the neighborhood at least two weeks in advance.
    3. If a vote is taken at a meeting, a quorum of at least fifteen people must be present for the vote.
  4. ELECTIONS
    1. After an interim period, and no later than <date>, the members of the Leadership Council will be elected by a majority vote of <GROUP NAME> members at a full <GROUP NAME> assembly.
    2. Subsequent elections will be held no later than <month> <day> of each following year at a full <GROUP NAME> meeting.
    3. Each Leader will serve a two-year term, except for the interim Leaders elected in 2011, or Leaders elected for partial terms to fulfill the staggered terms of section e. below.
    4. The Chairperson, Secretary, Emergency Preparedness Leader, and <Street 1> Block Captain will be elected in odd-numbered years, and the Treasurer, Crime Fighting Leader and <street 2> Block Captain will be elected in even-numbered years.
    5. Any <GROUP NAME> community member is eligible to run for any open position.
    6. Leadership Council members will be elected by the <GROUP NAME> membership by a majority of those present and voting, assuming a quorum of fifteen members has been reached.
    7. Vacancies may be filled by the Leadership Council in the interim between elections.
  5. SALARIES
    1. No member of the <GROUP NAME> will be compensated.  There will be no employees.
  6. COMMITTEES
    1. Committees will be created as determined by the Leadership Council, based on neighborhood input.
    2. Any <GROUP NAME> resident may serve on a committee.
    3. Committees will report to, and be supported by the Leadership Council..
  7. FINANCES
    1. Funds will be collected to provide for neighborhood projects, such as security projects (i.e. Camera equipment, Infra red lights, and maintenance), emergency preparedness projects, and Beautification projects.
    2. All contributions are considered equal regardless of the actual amount.  No member shall have greater influence or more votes because of larger contribution amounts.
    3. The amount(s) will be recommended by the project committee and requested by the Leadership Council from the membership. Amounts received as membership contributions are transferred and held in trust to provide for the management, maintenance, and care of association property/equipment if they are not used for association purposes during the year.
    4. Payment of Contributions.  Contributions will be paid to the <GROUP NAME>, collected by the Treasurer, and kept in separate accounts depending on the purpose that the funds were collected for i.e. Security, Emergency Preparedness, and Beautification.
    5. All requests for funds must be approved by the Leadership Council.
    6. All expenditures must be approved in advance by the Leadership Council.
  8. RECORDS AND REPORTS
    1. The accounts, books, and financial records will be kept by the Treasurer, and may be made available to any <GROUP NAME> member upon request.
    2. Minute from Leadership Council meetings, Official correspondence, all revisions of bylaws, minutes of Member meetings, are kept by the Secretary.
    3. Minutes of each general neighborhood meeting will be posted on the groups password protected web-site.
  9. AMENDMENTS
    1. Any member can initiate an amendment to these by-laws.
    2. The proposed amendment will be considered and voted upon at a duly called general meeting.
    3. Changes to Bylaws requires 2/3 majority, and requires a quorum of 20 people.
  10. DISSOLUTION
    1. The <GROUP NAME> may initiate the process to dissolve if a 2/3 majority of the membership votes for this course of action at a duly called meeting.
    2. As a nonprofit, and though it is an unincorporated association, any remaining assets of the <GROUP NAME> must be given to another nonprofit, in accordance with California law.

SIGNATURES

____________________________________________
<name>, Chairperson                                           (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, Treasurer                                               (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, Secretary                                               (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, Crime Fighting Leader                          (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, Emergency Preparedness Leader       (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, <street 1> Block Captain                      (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, <street 2> Block Captain                     (date)

____________________________________________
<name>, <street 1> Block Captain                      (date)

(The list of topics in these by-laws is a partial list of the suggested outline for by-laws found in Franchise Tax Board booklet 3500 to apply as an unincorporated association for exemption from CA income or franchise taxes.)

APPENDIX

The language in Section B below is drawn verbatim from “Guidelines for Homeowners Associations FTB 1028”. 

See Page 3 at http://www.ftb.ca.gov/forms/misc/1028.pdf

A.  Incorporator Organizational Tests.  General

  1. The name of the organization shall be the <GROUP NAME>.
  2. This organization does not contemplate financial gain or profit to its members and is organized for nonprofit purposes.
  3. The specific and primary purpose of the association is to operate an unincorporated homeowners’ neighborhood association within the meaning of Section 23701t of the California Revenue and Taxation Code.
  4. Notwithstanding any of the above statements of purposes and powers, this organization shall not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of the specific purpose of this organization.

B.  Operational Test General Requirements.  Source of income test: 60 percent or more of gross income is from membership dues, fees, and assessments.

  1. Source of income test: 60 percent or more of gross income comes from membership dues, fees, and assessments. In the case of a cooperative housing corporation, payments from stockholder members to pay acquisition indebtedness or other fees are considered fees and assessments.
  2. Expenditure test: 90 percent or more of the expenses for the year are for acquisition, construction, management, maintenance, and care of association property or, in the case of a timeshare association, for activities provided to or on behalf of the members of the association.
  3. No part of the net earnings is used to benefit any private individual other than in the normal course of activities of the association.

 

Collecting Trusted License Plates

One of the problems with having a Neighborhood video surveillance system is the number of unknown vehicles that show up on any recording.

For any such system to be valuable, the neighborhood group managing the system has to filter out the trusted vehicles in order to locate the suspicious vehicles.

Inherently trusted vehicles

The Firetruck is inherently trusted

The Firetruck is inherently trusted

Some vehicle comes with a certain level of trust based solely their apperance:

  • Police cars
  • Ambulances
  • Firetrucks
  • Garbage Trucks
  • Cement Trucks
  • Fedex
  • UPS
  • USPS

Not so trusted vehicles.

At the other end of the scale are vehicles that are suspicious just because they don’t fit the standard of the neighborhood: This could be because that they are too expenses, too flashy, to loud, too fast, too slow, too colorful, too dilapidated, too old. etc.

The bland majority

Between these two poles are a large number of vehicles that are just ordinary: these are the cars that the bad guys choose when they want to blend in.

On a typical day we have more than 100 unique such cars passing our camera. The only way to be able to distinguish the good cars from the bad is by having a list of trusted license plates.

If you live in an area without garages or with a shared parking structure, the task can be accomplished by just walking with a camera phone a couple of times.

However if you, like us, live in an area were many people park their cars inside garages you will have to engage the owners. The good news is that this actually increases security awareness and the feeling of community, core features of a good Neighborhood security group

  1. Start by sending out emails asking people for License plates
  2. then send out 1 or 2 more nagging emails to get some more addresses.
  3. Finally make a list of all the addresses where you are still missing the licenses and go door-to-door asking people to open the garages.

Where to record the vehicle information.

Some people will find that putting car model/make and license plate on your neighborhood roster makes them uncomfortable.
Most people find that having a trusted vehicle list that is independent of the Roster and is only accessible by a small group of trusted neighbors is the way to go.
Many people will volunteer color, Make and Model in addition to the License plate, some will only give you the license plate. Some will volunteer extra information like year, accessories (like roof-rack and stickers). A good system will have a way to capture this information.

For most group the list is so simple that it can be kept in a single spreadsheet, however if you have more than one person viewing and updating a file based sheet, you will have a hard time making sure everyone has an updated copy

We found that using a hosted shared spreadsheet was the best solution, and are currently using the free Google Docs spreadsheet.