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National Night Out seeks to raise awareness

The event will try to introduce neighbors to each other and to crime prevention.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


These days, fewer and fewer people seem to know their neighbors, Hill 'n Dale resident Jim Mead has noticed.

"I'm originally from up North, farm county, where everybody knew everybody," said the president of this neighborhood crime watch organization. "But I've been here five years and there are people I don't know who live just down the street."

It is with this in mind that officials are planning for Tuesday a National Night Out, an event organized in part by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office that aims to get neighbors involved with their communities and crime prevention.

In Hernando County, there are already 67 crime-watch groups, but participation often is spotty, officials say. National Night Out is a chance to remind residents about the importance of being aware of crime and how it can be stopped, said sheriff's spokeswoman Deanna Dammer. Throughout the area, local crime-watch groups are asking residents to leave their lights on Tuesday night and consider participating in flashlight walks through neighborhoods. Many of the groups are also having community get-togethers with food and refreshments.

"It's an awareness kind of thing," Dammer said. "The more you know your neighbors, the more you'll be able to recognize crime and report it."

That happened recently in Weeki Wachee when a member of the local crime watch, who was out on her morning walk, noticed a broken-down door of a house, said crime watch vice president Dick Shotts.

"She called the Sheriff's Office, just like you're supposed to do, and through an investigation they found it was a burglary . . . and made an arrest," Shotts said, adding that the woman helped provide police with information on a local person she thought might be responsible.

Such arrests are proof that residents can make a difference, Mead said.

"Crime watch really does help," he said. "We are the extra eyes and ears of the police."

For more information on how to participate in National Night Out or local crime-watch groups, call James Powers in the sheriff's Community Services Division at 754-6830, ext. 303.

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