BY JAMES HARPER
Residents living south of International Speedway Boulevard in Zone 6 had their official kick off meeting of their Neighborhood Watch group on Sept. 30 at the John H. Dickerson Center.
Residents began organizing in June under the guidance of Zone 6 City Commissioner Paula Reed.
Reed had some advice for the criminal element thinking about continuing to prey on her residents “Eyes will be upon you. We are taking our neighborhood back,” Reed said.
Neighborhood Watch member Wilburn Williams said they are currently working on identifying problems.
“We have to be our own best friends. We have to take back our community. Next step is what can I do. What can we do? Are we camping or are we crossing,” he stated.
Resident Johnnie Ponder urged the approximately 20 in attendance to build a relationship with the Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD).
“We have got to have a relationship with the police. (Mike) Chitwood is a wonderful police chief. He will listen to you. We all got to work together,” Ponder said.
Capt. Lance Blanchette was at the meeting representing Chitwood.
“Every time he goes to one of these meetings, I get a phone call from him,” Blanchette said in reference to Chitwood calling him to solve a problem he was told about at a Neighborhood Watch meeting.
Concerned about youth
Longtime Zone 6 resident Sam Rogers is worried about the young people getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
“All problems can’t be addressed just by calling the police. There are two or three generations who have not gotten it – how to live, how to progress. Babies are having babies. We are in survival mode. People don’t sit down to the table and talk to their kids. They have no foundation,” Rogers noted.
Two representatives from other watch groups were at the meeting as well.
Chris Daun from the Uptown Neighborhood Watch Group, which encompasses residents living off Madison Avenue, said, “It’s important to create a fabric. The community needs to know their neighbors. People used to know each other. We are getting back to that,’’ Daun said.
Weejie Kundig is president of Save Our Neighborhood. “We are all trying to support each other.
Residents have a voice. We have to be informed,” she added.
More projects, more jobs
Reed said her plan is that residents of Zone 6 are not left behind as growth takes place in other areas of the city, particularly with the announcement of a Hard Rock Café that may be built on A1A, as well as expansion plans announced earlier this year by International Speedway Corporation.
She noted that all these projects are taking place outside her zone, but she supports them because in the long run it could mean more jobs for the people she represents – especially construction jobs.
Second group possible
Reed said when the South group kicks off, she hopes to start a second Neighborhood Watch group for residents of her zone who live north of International Speedway Boulevard. She adds that the decision will ultimately be up to the residents if they think the zone needs two groups.
“It has to be citizen-driven. This will not be a time for residents to offer up gripes,” Reed said, adding that in order to accomplish some of the goals she hopes to achieve for her zone and the entire city she will need the help of her residents.
Reed said the idea of forming a Neighborhood Watch group came after she met with residents of Russell and Willie Streets who were upset with a rash of break-ins that had occurred in their area. Reed said it is time for the residents to take back their neighborhood, some of which are still centers of crime.
Meetings with chief
During the upcoming Neighborhood Watch meetings, Reed said residents would have an opportunity to address their concerns to Chitwood.
There also will be opportunities when other departments of the city will present residents with information to improve their quality of life in the city.
Reed said they will meet second Tuesday of every month in the Activity Building of the Dickerson Center at 6 p.m.