Notes from Newcastle: Neighborhood pride and activism

July 31, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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I often like to end my interviews with a question about a subject’s hometown.

How long have you lived in Newcastle? Why did you choose to move to Newcastle? What do you like about living in Newcastle?

The answers aren’t necessarily important for the story, but I always enjoy hearing residents talk about the place they live.

Some mention the city’s trails, others the small-neighborhood feel, but all extol the convenience of Newcastle’s location and display a certain pride in the city they call home.

Take, for example, Mandy Schendel, the local girl who gained notoriety after a top 10 finish at the Miss America pageant in 2013. She’s so proud of her Newcastle roots, she goes out of her way to correct people that say she’s from Renton.

That pride seems to trickle down to neighborhoods, too, with active homeowners associations coming together to put on block parties, create neighborhood block watches and more.

With community pride comes a desire to preserve all that is good about a neighborhood. That’s what was on display July 8 when I was invited to a Windtree neighborhood meeting.

“Neighbors need to look out for each other, keep an eye for what’s not normal and not be complacent,” resident Daniel Baker said of the informational session about security camera installation, due to a recent rash of car break-ins.

Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine attended and offered her thoughts about cameras, saying they are useful tools for law enforcement. Cameras with motion alerts are even better, and many these days can be accessed remotely.

But if you happen to see something happening on your cameras while you’re out of town, call the police, not a friend or neighbor to check things out, she said.

Windtree resident Gil René, a commercial security expert, also presented, and tempered residents’ expectations of the true capabilities of a residential security camera system.

A lot of things go on in a security camera, and it’s very hard to make it do what citizens often expect it to do, he said. For example, capturing video of a license plate is very difficult to do reliably, since plates are designed to reflect light.

Camera placement is critical, René said. Residents must emphasize the lighting conditions, because the better the light, the better the pictures. Buyers must also remember to place motion cameras in a location where they won’t get triggered by the region’s all-too-common rain and wind.

A good number of Windtree residents filled the community room at the Newcastle Library for the talk because they care about the safety of their homes, neighborhood and city.

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