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An Evening Of Fun For A Serious Cause

August 8, 2007
By STEVEN GOODE, Courant Staff Writer

It's been 10 years since Marguerite Neely took part in her first anti-crime National Night Out event at the Tuscan Homes senior citizen development in Hartford.

And although there have been times when the issues she and other residents brought to city leaders' attention seemed to fall on deaf ears or blind eyes, residents have been rewarded for their perseverance.

"We always want something and don't always get it at that time, but you have to fight for it," said Neely, president of the Tuscan Homes block watch program for the past five years. "Someone else may not see it the way you see it, but sooner or later they come around."

Neely and about two dozen Tuscan residents welcomed city leaders to their pavilion Tuesday evening for some food, conversation, and to mark National Night Out locally.

In its 24th year, the event is designed to heighten crime- and drug-prevention awareness, generate support for local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

The event was celebrated in hundreds of cities and towns across the country, 20 in Connecticut.

In Hartford, celebrations were held at four sites. They were attended by Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, Mayor Eddie A. Perez and other officials.

"It's part of building relationships. That's what community policing is about," said Roberts, who was greeted with smiles and handshakes at Tuscan Homes.

But Roberts was prepared for a cooler reception at another location - the Lozada playground in the city's Clay Hill neighborhood.

"We've got some issues in that area," Roberts said. "But it's very important that you meet with the people that don't like you. We still have to provide service to them."

Retired Hartford firefighter Vinnie Graves, who attended the Clay Hill event, agreed that his neighborhood has problems, including poverty, poor educational achievement and drug dealers.

But for Graves, who attended with his wife, Freddie, it was mainly an opportunity to see familiar faces in an upbeat setting.

"A lot of times we don't come out here in positive circumstances," he said.

Perez called the National Night Out observances an opportunity to say thank you to residents for serving as extra eyes and ears for police and a celebration of the work done by block watches during the year.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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