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Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez addresses residents at the inaugural Belen Neighborhood Watch meeting last Saturday.

BELEN — About 15 people were in attendance at the first official meeting of the Belen Neighborhood Watch took place on Saturday, Nov. 23.

Half of the attendees were from local law enforcement and city councilors.

Belen councilors Wayne Gallegos and Frank Ortega, and councilor-elect Daniel Bernal Jr. each spoke about the importance of residents participating in a watch group to create a safer environment in Belen.

“We can’t give up, and this place should be full of concerned residents,” said Gallegos.

“We have to work together in order to make a difference in our community.”

Belen police chief Victor Rodriguez spoke about how community watch groups need support from the community and multiple members of the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office encouraged the group to create a victim outreach program to support victims of crime or witnesses in court.

“We cannot do this without our community,” said Rodriguez.

“Without this support, we cannot defeat the criminal element out there in our city.”

Gabriel Gabaldon is the one spearheading the initiative after having reached out to Tina Powers who had ties to the previous incarnation of the watch group.

Because members of the previous group had to step away from running it, the group lost traction.

“We are working closely with the city and the police department,” Gabaldon said.

“We’re going to increase social media presence and work closely with law enforcement. It’s that kind of tie-in that is going to make a huge difference.”

Gabaldon hopes to keep continuity in the program by creating a neighborhood watch board comprised of four board members from each district within the city, one member from the Belen Police Department, one high school youth outreach representative and one local business representative.

Those in attendance on Saturday voted for each position.

Brian Cox for District 1, Gabriel Gabaldon for District 2, Daniel Bernal Jr. for District 3, Tina Powers for District 4, Eli Baca for the youth outreach representative, Robert Noblin for the local business representative and Chief Rodriguez will pick a representative for the Belen Police Department.

Powers spoke briefly on this being the first time that there will be a Belen chapter of the national Neighborhood Watch organization.

Vanessa Alexander gave a presentation about the Valencia Regional Emergency Communications Center. She gave tips for residents on how to be a “good caller” by giving the location and description of the crime occurring. Having worked there herself, she said she had a good idea of what the dispatch and officers need to get to the location of the crime in an efficient manor.

Once the board of directors were elected, the group decided to postpone the meeting that was planned after the election to a later date.

“This is where the real work begins, and I’m excited for it,” Gabaldon said in closing.

The first meeting of the Belen Neighborhood Watch program is planned for Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Belen Public Library with the time to be determined.

“I thought it went really well,” Gabaldon said.

“With a new initiative, you kind of have to establish yourself before people are going to realize they like what we’re doing. I think we’re going to show that we’re organized and have a really good plan.”

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