Michael Smith, one of the neighborhood dads, meets his match in the tug-of-war during the Spyglass Hill annual community picnic in Corona del Mar on Tuesday. (Don Leach, Daily Pilot / August 5, 2014)

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  • Corona Del Mar, CA, United States

Spyglass Hill isn't exactly known as a crime-riddled community.

But the community of 350 houses in the hills above Corona del Mar has been the target of burglars through the years, said resident Therese Loutherback — $85,000 worth of her jewelry was stolen seven years ago.

The neighborhood lacked one of the most effective break-in deterrents: a strong network of neighbors.

That's why Loutherback started Spyglass Hill's Neighborhood Watch a couple of years ago.

"We have a very child-free neighborhood — we have a few teens, but we don't have many children — so parents don't talk to their neighbors anymore," she said. "In addition to promoting neighbor relations and deterring crime, we're just having fun."

The group has grown to include 30 block captains who help plan events throughout the year, including cocktail parties.

On Tuesday, the group presented its second annual meet-and-greet picnic in conjunction with National Night Out, an initiative that encourages people to get to know one another and local law-enforcement officials in an effort to reduce crime.

While Newport Beach hosted the city's National Night Out barbecue at Bonita Canyon Sports Park, Spyglass Hill was the only community with its own event.

The picnic at Spyglass Hill Park was scheduled to feature a watermelon-eating contest, potato sack races and a food truck serving up burgers. A few Newport Beach police officers and a crime-prevention specialist were set to stop by.

Loutherback said the idea behind neighbors getting to know neighbors is to help them identify suspicious people in the area. The Neighborhood Watch email list, she added, makes it easy to send quick messages to residents about, say, a coyote sighting or a burglary.

Andi Querry, a crime-prevention specialist with the Newport Beach Police Department who helped set up Spyglass Hill's Neighborhood Watch, said the program has been a "really great success."

Still, she said, "while I encourage other places to do that, it's a big undertaking."

Neighboring Costa Mesa was set to host a National Night Out event at Target on Harbor Boulevard featuring police and firefighter demonstrations.