Charlotte neighborhood warning of 'fake crime watch block captain' going door to door

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It just so happens that the people who live in the Forest Pawtuckett neighborhood take pride in looking out for each other.

"We stay on top of stuff," said crime watch block captain Anne Swann. "So we're in control. Those committing crimes are not in control. The people who live here - the neighbors - we look out for each other because we care about each other and we want our neighborhood to be a safe place where people want to come, people want to live, people feel safe when they live here."

Saturday afternoon, a stranger knocked on Charlotte Bonilla's front door on Paleface Place.

"He had on a very nice suit and tie, looked like a respectable man," Bonilla said. "My first red flag went off when he introduced himself as my neighborhood watch block captain."

The problem for the stranger was that he was masquerading in the job Bonilla volunteers to do.

"I'm the block captain of this street," Bonilla told WBTV. Still, she listened to what the man had to say.

"He was talking about wanting to know our routine so he knew when to keep a special eye on the house when no one would be here, and asked me if I made up a list of valuables," she recalled of the conversation. "If not, I could just tell him and he'd jot a few down so that if the police had to come while we weren't here he could let them know what was possibly missing."

Bonilla says the more the man talked, the more alarmed she became.

"And I'm thinking, first of all, he didn't have anything to jot anything down with, and second of all, why would I give a total stranger a list of my valuables?"

She says she knows that legitimate crime watch block captains would never ask for that information.

"Nobody from crime watch is ever going to knock on your door and say, 'when are you not at home and what do you have in there that's worth stealing?'" she said.

Bonilla says she couldn't listen to the man anymore. She said she "made him leave, called 311, and notified other crime watch block captains in the community."

Bonilla says about two hours after her encounter with the stranger at her door, she was coming home from running an errand when she spotted the man again. This time the man was on Stonehurst Drive, the street next to Bonilla's cul-de-sac.

"I saw him again and I went up and circled around and came back and asked him for directions and he took off between two houses," she said.

The stranger is described as a white man with "piercing pale blue eyes," around 60 years old, 5'9'' to 5'10'' tall. He was wearing a black suit, white shirt, black tie and carrying a clipboard. He apparently took off on foot.

Bonilla says another neighbor believes she saw a black sedan.

"I've never felt unsafe in this neighborhood in 11 years," Bonilla said. "That's the first time I ever felt threatened in this cul-de-sac."

She says she worried the man may have gotten information from others.

"We have a lot of retirees in the neighborhood. We have a lot of young couples who may not have known how crime watch works. That's what scared me," she said.

Anne Swann is one of the block captains in the neighborhood who Bonilla called to inform about the stranger.

"When she called and started telling me what happened, all these alarm bells went off about the questions he was asking," Swann said. "It's obvious to me he was up to no good. He was staking out her house out, and anyone else's house that he went to. He went to other houses on her street then he went to houses on another street close by."

Swann says she immediately posted the information on the neighborhood's page.

"It was scary yeah it was scary. It was scary that someone might really fall for that," Swann said of the man's questions.

But she's reiterating what Bonilla says about crime watch block captains.

"They're not going to ask you when you're going to be gone," she said. "Never. Never. They're not going to ask you what your valuables are."

Swann and Bonilla are concerned the man may be knocking on doors in other neighborhoods.

As for the Forest Pawtuckett neighborhood, Bonilla says it was fortune that the man picked her house.

She wants to see more people volunteer to be crime watch block captains.

"The thing is this is a huge neighborhood and we have relatively few block captains for the size of this neighborhood," Bonilla said. "The more block captains we have, the more people get to know their block captains, the safer we're going to be."

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