Spread the word about crime awareness Aug. 7
By Chris Fish
ROCKLEDGE - Like many others in Brevard County, Sandra Pelham is on a mission to save her community.
"There were times when you would see guys walking up and down the street, selling drugs from car to car," she said pointing toward Monroe Street in Melbourne. "Now, you don't see that as much as you used to."
Ms. Pelham said the decline of crime within her community can be attributed to the awareness spread by the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch, a program created by National Night Out, an annual crime-and-drug prevention event, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 7.
"It's a nationwide event that's held every year on the first Tuesday in August," said Ms. Pelham, who is co-chairing the event, alongside James Bartell. "We are bringing all the neighbors together to pray about this community because there is a lot of violence here."
Throughout Brevard County on Aug. 7, residents from Rockledge to Melbourne Beach will be celebrating National Night Out event with their own community-focused events.
"It's a great time to get the neighbors together and bring awareness to crime prevention," said Ilene Manzo, a Neighborhood Watch Officer with the Rockledge Police Department. "We are going to have a lot of free stuff for the kids, and a lot of great stuff for adults, too."
Guest speaker for the Melbourne Beach event, Assistant State Attorney Phil Archer, said neighborhoods with an effective neighborhood watch program reduced crime.
"What we found in neighborhoods that have an aggressive approach to calling cops with suspicious reports usually stay crime free," Mr. Archer said. "I always tell people when they see something to call it in. The cops don't mind checking it out, but it's hard sometimes to get people to do that."
Neighborhoods throughout the town of Melbourne Beach plan to participate in the 29th annual National Night Out event.
From 5-9 p.m. on Aug. 7, residents throughout the town will be encouraged to lock their doors and turn on their outside lights, said Detective Cpl. Melanie Griswold of the Melbourne Beach Police Department, which is co-sponsoring the event.
Also that evening, at Melbourne Beach's Ryckman Park, will be games for children, prizes, food, music and a bounce house, as well as an opportunity to meet the town's police officers, firefighters and members of the Melbourne Beach Rotary Club.
Rockledge Community Service Coordinator Michael Cadore said it is important to raise awareness to the community about ways they can help local law enforcement.
"We are letting our citizens know they should call the hotline no matter how small the problem is," he said. "We have done a tremendous job of (spreading our cause) through social media and the Internet. We have an integrated email system that reaches 2,000 people to help get the word out. If you don't have an email (address), we are meeting within your community. Everyone is on the same page, and everyone is working together. That is a huge blessing."
Despite the large amount of community involvement, Ms. Pelham said she has encountered a few challenges over the years.
"I would like for the churches to get more involved. I feel if the church would get involved, more people will get involved," she said. "Tuesday night is prayer night for the community. Prayer is very important. Prayer changers things, but I'm only asking for one night. If we don't all come together, it's not going to be successful."
Mr. Bartell agreed that there are certain challenges the neighborhood watch group for Melbourne's Powell Subdivision faces, but he is optimistic about the future.
"The greatest challenge we have is getting people to participate (in the National Night Out event). A lot of people in this neighborhood talk, but they don't communicate," he said. "This community has improved a lot. When we first started, we had very little participation with people in this area, but now we have had a great turnout."
Ms. Manzo said she is impressed with the turnout her community has shown over the years, and she stressed the importance of community cooperation with its local police forces.
"Last year, we had 1,500 people who participated in the event. It's a great way to spread awareness through the community," she said. "We spend a lot of time at neighborhood watch meetings, and we always tell people to call us. They may think it may not be something to bother the police with, but we think no call is too small."
For more information about National Night Out, visit www.nationaltownwatch.org. For more information on the Melbourne National Night Out, contact Sandra Pelham at (321) 724-1770.