Cops and courtrooms have their place. Balloon animals and face paint also play a role in fighting crime.
On Sunday, hundreds of people, many of them with children in tow, got together for a barbecue that organizers hope will mark the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“There’s a serious issue at the core. But also, you know, we need to know who are neighbours are. If we know who our neighbours are, guess what? We’re 10 times further ahead than we were yesterday,” said organizer Marlo Ruttan.
It all starts with his and other neighbours’ worries related to a drug house and a perceived rise in property crimes throughout the area.
And then, on a Sunday morning early in April, 29-year-old Brandon Prevey was shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle parked on Ibbotson Close.
Simmering fears boiled over.
Ruttan and others had already made numerous contacts with police and City Hall to talk about their concerns about crime in Inglewood and parts of Anders, which are some of the city’s newest neighbourhoods.
Following the murder, Ruttan helped organize a community meeting to talk about ways to create a safer community.
Ultimately, they determined that knowing your neighbours and looking out for each other are among the best crime-fighting tools available, said Ruttan.
“The RCMP and the City of Red Deer asked me to start up an association and to help them, instead of just going to the media and making complaints. So, at that point I took it upon myself to organize this.”
Working with Pauline Mousseau, neighbourhood community development co-ordinator for the City of Red Deer, he got help from businesses in the immediate area to sponsor and host Sunday’s barbecue, held at a park on Ironstone Drive.
Their plan was to introduce people from the area to each other, drum up support for creation of a community association and get more people involved with Neighbourhood Watch.
Within the first two hours, the barbecue and children’s events had drawn more than 350 people, of whom 30 had signed up to form a new community association to serve the Inglewood and Anders subdivisions.
Those who signed up will be called together later on, likely in September, to form a society to operate a new community association, said Mousseau. Once the association receives legal status, it can then raise funds and apply for grants for any projects in which its members would like to be involved, she said.
People also lined up to learn more about Neighbourhood Watch, which covers only six of the 77 blocks in Inglewood.
Those six are all on the eastern side of the subdivision, with none in the area where Prevey was murdered, said Mike Maracle, vice-president of Neighbourhood Watch in Red Deer.
The excellent turnout and the high response to creating a community association left Ruttan feeling encouraged about the future of his community.
“We’re tired of the crime that’s happening in this area, the drug dealings. It’s time that the citizens took back their neighbourhood, and we are going to take ours back.”
Jaime Cameron, who has four children, said she likes the idea of holding events in which her youngsters can have some fun and she can meet more of her neighbours.