ANTIOCH -- Having her home burglarized twice in a month hasn't made Chris Coles-Morales fearful of her neighborhood; it's made her angry enough to fight back.
And she's not the only one.
Coles-Morales and a dozen other residents in the Meadow Creek Estates subdivision in southeast Antioch are fed up with how the once-calm burg has changed over the past few years into a neighborhood prone to burglary, loiterers and blight. In addition to pressing Antioch leaders to make an adjacent trail crime-proof, they recently formed a neighborhood watch to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
"If you don't live here, you don't belong here," Coles-Morales said. "It's terrible to say, but I think at this point we have to have that attitude. There are things going on in our neighborhood we don't want to have to deal with anymore. Enough's enough."
Meadow Creek, which is northeast of Hillcrest Avenue and Lone Tree Way, has been one of the city's most targeted areas for burglary over the past few months, according to police data. There have been six burglaries on Catanzaro Way since Nov. 28.
On the surface, the quiet neighborhood is filled with newer tract homes and families of all ages and ethnicities. But, residents say it has become increasingly uncomfortable because of youths exhibiting thuggish behavior, including cussing and throwing trash on the ground, cars racing down streets, and undesirable people living or associating at problem houses -- including rentals and vacant homes. The city-owned trail behind the homes is full of broken glass, sporadic graffiti and trash.
Jeanne Horgan appeared at a recent City Council meeting asking for help to get her neighborhood's "peace and safety" back.
"We're finding that if we take baby steps, it will make a difference," Horgan said. "Now, there's a feeling that when you go out, others are looking out for you."
Coles-Morales adds: "We're always shooting each other texts or e-mails now if we see something or someone that shouldn't be there."
Coles-Morales, who bought the Catanzaro Way home with her husband a year ago, was burglarized on the evening of Nov. 28 when thieves came through a gate that connects to the pathway, lifted a locked sliding door up off its tracks and rifled through belongings in the master bedroom and bathroom. The thieves took a laptop computer and one-of-a-kind jewelry -- family heirlooms her relatives brought with them when escaping Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.
Exactly a month later, burglars broke into the home around noon, kicking through a different set of back doors. However, they were unable to take anything because the security alarm sounded and neighbors called the police.
Police arrested three people in the Dec. 28 burglary, Lt. Tammany Brooks said. The arrests were aided by the Coles-Morales' surveillance camera taping the alleged thieves loitering on Catanzaro, followed by a neighbor camera spotting them on the trail minutes before the alarm went off.
The burglars are likely the same people or part of a group that is staking out the homes, because they looked through a different set of drawers, Coles-Morales said.
"It felt like we were being watched. They knew when we left the house," she said.
Coles-Morales spoke recently with Mayor Wade Harper and suggested several ideas for the trail, including moving it to the other side of East Antioch Creek, adding lattice work to raise the city-owned fence height to 8 feet, adding a second fence closer to the trail, having police patrol the trail or closing it altogether.
Antioch's trail system is open with the exception of one short path in and out of the neighborhood off Truskmore Way, which was closed at the request of residents, Public Works Director Ron Bernal said.
Like city parks, the pathways are supposed to be closed from dusk to dawn. But, enforcing that has proved difficult.
Some city officials planned to meet with residents over the weekend.
In the meantime, Harper encouraged the residents to get involved in neighborhood watch and "harden their target," including making sure homes have security alarms or locks, proper lighting and maintained shrubs for increased visibility.
"Now more than ever we need the community's help in fighting crime," said Brooks, pointing out Antioch police is short-staffed. "If residents can immediately report suspicious activity or even burglaries in progress, that's huge for us."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.