Colonial Heights promotes and celebrates safety
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 22, 2012, 13:23
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Police Chief Jeffrey Faries talks to neighbors during the event.
The smell of grilling burgers and hot dogs filled the air of Colonial Heights last week as people took to the streets of their neighborhoods to join in Celebrate Safe Communities, the annual city-wide event that promotes socializing between community members, city officials and law enforcement officers.
“What’s important is it really is an opportunity for the city to come together, the citizens to reacquaint themselves with their neighbors, to meet the city officials the police officers, the detectives,” Colonial Heights Police Chief Jeffrey Faries said while stopping by one of the neighborhood cookouts. “It makes our community very special.”
Colonial Heights began the community outreach portion of its law enforcement efforts by celebrating National Night Out along with neighboring localities Chesterfield, Prince George and Hopewell, but the August date associated with that event carried with it a problem that discouraged some people from joining their neighbors outside.
“We listened to our community when they said, ‘Hey, it’s really hot in August. How ‘bout thinking of doing something later on during the year?’” Faries said.
They found Celebrate Safe Communities, an initiative sponsored by the National Crime Prevention Council and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice. Developed in 2008 in partnership with the National Sheriff’s Association, the celebration takes place during October, Crime Prevention Month.
This year’s event was delayed by two weeks due to rainy weather, but the slightly chilly temperatures later in the month didn’t stop Colonial Heights residents from pulling on sweaters and jackets to get together.
“I think it’s really important to meet your neighbors and be concerned about other people’s homes,” said Greta Allen, enjoying the Pinecliffe party.
Colonial Heights Vice Mayor Betsy Luck was making the rounds, trying to stop by as many of the city’s 27 events as she could.
“It’s a good place for neighbors to meet neighbors,” she said. “The police get there as quickly as they can, but often times, when you have a real problem, you need someone immediately and your next door neighbor is who you turn to. I’ve met several people who have said this is the best event because we get to talk to our neighbors and catch up. In this busy world that we live in, not everybody gets out like we should.”
Entertainment varied at different sites throughout the city, but at Pinecliffe, John “The Wolfman” Newton, a local DJ, played music for people to listen to as they looked at the classic cars members of various car clubs Newton participates in brought out at his request. He said that knowing the neighbors is an important part of keeping an area safe.
“A lot of people don’t know who their neighbors are, but out here, you can see, we know who everybody is down here,” he said.
Newton, who was the first person to move into the neighborhood 23 years ago, said it’s a tight knit community.
“We keep an eye on everything real close,” he said. “If you come down here and you do something wrong, you’re going to jail.”
Faries said that in addition to promoting camaraderie between neighbors, the event also helps familiarize city residents with their local officials and law enforcement officers, promoting more open communication.
“It’s all about trust and good relationships and we want to forge those relationships, so they feel comfortable calling us, talking to us, and we can have that dialogue,” he said. “That’s what makes a community great.”
Nearby, an idling fire truck was waiting for the right moment to take children on a ride around town.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Local families attended 27 events throughout the city to socialize and enjoy entertainment.
In Conjurer’s Neck, children were already enjoying rides on the backs of a horse and pony, brought as part of a petting zoo with goats, alpacas and rabbits to entertain young visitors.
“We wanted to see all the activity in the community and meet up with the neighbors,” said Betsy Dane.
She said her granddaughters were excited to see the horses, especially since one of them had been talking about her desire to ride a horse for some time.
“She’s in hog heaven,” Dane said, as her granddaughter climbed into the saddle. “Horse heaven.”
Bill Poorbaugh, President of the neighborhood’s Homeowner’s Association, said that the annual event, centered around the Old Brickhouse, built in 1685, also served as the annual meeting for the group he helms.
“It makes for a great evening,” he said of the event. “Last year, we had about 150 people and I think we’re probably at or exceeded that number.”
Luck said she credits the city’s police with the good turnout for the event.
“It really is due to our wonderful police force and their support of the community,” she said. “We are so blessed to have a police force that helps us feel so safe in these communities.”