I was on a mission Saturday to go toe-to-toe with the dinosaur-sized shrub in my front yard.
In the few months I've lived in my new place, the bush has gone from, like, velociraptor size to T-Rex size. Branches were pushing up against my windows, I couldn't see through my windows through the green jungle.
It was afwul.
A couple weekends ago, my parents came up for a belated birthday visit, and my mom mentioned that the shrub was out of control and, if someone was tryign to break in, there's no way my neighbors would be able to see.
So, Saturday, I got up and got ready to go to pruning town.
Then, from behind, I heard a call, "Excuse me, hi, I'm your neighbor across the street ... "
The very kind across-the-street neighbors, a couple I'd not met, offered me hedge trimmers and a ladder.
And even with my advanced tools, I was still out there, hacking away, dying in the mid-day heat.
I don't know if you know how hot it was Saturday, but it was miserable.
Me, halfway through the hack job:
I gave up at about 4 p.m. As I was picking up the tools from the yard and trying to figure out what in the h-e-double hockey sticks I was going to do with all the trimmings, a man in a blue truck stopped by.
His aunt had noticed I'd been outside all day and thought I might need some help.
He offered to come back and pick up all of the branches and mess I'd made in the front yard.
Neighbors are the best.
So now you're probably like, "Dungjen, who the heck cares? I come here to read about crime. This is about a shrub. A stupid, stupid shrub."
And, yeah, I get that, but hear me out.
One of the best lines of defense and one of the best ways to minimize crime in your neighborhood is to be aware. Be aware of your neighbors, be aware of your surroundings, know your neighbors. Know who belongs and who doesn't.
Before Saturday, the only neighbor I'd been curious about is the one whose house had been surrounded by gang unit members one rainy February afternoon.
I now know more people who live next to me/near me/across from me and who belongs, who might not belong, what kind of cars they're usually in. These kinds of things are important.
It's that Block Watch mentality without going to Block Watch meetings.
You know which neighborhood is really good at this? The Old West End. Folks who live in that neighborhood are all over Facebook posting about crime in and around their neighborhood, warning one another of people looking into cars or people who might be lurking about, people knocking on doors.
That kind of stuff helps, and knowing your neighbors is the first step.
Perfect example: Blade photographer Lisa Dutton today told me about a strange experience she and her husband had this weekend. They were in their kitchen washing strawberries when her husband stopped and ran out of the house.
Lisa, not tall enough to see out of the window was all, "What the..?"
Her husband came running back in moments later, saying call 911, someone's trying to break in next door.
The apparent almost-burglars ran off, but not before Lisa's husband could write down the license plate number of the truck parked next door.
Guys, that's awesome. That's worth a good neighbor gold-star sticker.