A celebration of safety

June 27th, 2015 1:55 am

First Posted: 8/13/2013

The near perfect weather seemed made to order for a multi-community celebration at Healey Park last Saturday. Sponsored by the Avoca, Dupont and Duryea crime watch groups, and the police and fire departments of those towns, the event featured music, food, games, police and fire demonstrations, and a special appearance from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders mascot.

A parade, which began at the Polish Club in Dupont, kicked off the celebration to commemorate the 30th anniversary of “National Night Out.”

As fire trucks, police cruisers and shiny convertibles rolled through the three towns en-route to Healey Park, onlookers waved to first responders and crime watch members from porches and curbs. National Night Out is an annual event, designed to strengthen communities by encouraging neighborhoods to engage in stronger relationships with each other and with their local law enforcement partners.

“It’s a nice area,” said Duryea resident Chelsea Hawksley. “I take my son to (Healey Park) often. The cops are really nice, and I know most of them first hand because of my grandpa’s shop,” she said, pointing to law enforcement supply store Roll Call across the street from the park.

Kenny Salvo, an Avoca police officer who oversees the borough’s crime watch group, said his department usually makes four to five drug arrests every month. “What we’re trying to do is nip it in the bud.”

Twenty-year-old Greg Jones said he hasn’t witnessed or heard about criminal activity in his Hughestown neighborhood since moving from Maryland a year ago. “I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood.”

Carmen Ambrosino, CEO of Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services said drugs are the country’s weapons of mass-destruction. “The greatest computer you’ll ever operate sits on top of your shoulders in your head,” he said, reaching out to the many children at the event. He challenged the kids to use their brains to develop problem-solving and coping skills. “Learn basic courtesy, manners and strong ethics.”

Ambrosino, who said he plans to retire in five months after his 40-year career with WVDA, said he’s seen children, as young a nine get hooked on drugs. “We need to change this,” he said. “We need to take back our families and our community.”

Jim Brogan, president of the newly-formed Avoca crime watch group, said he and his fellow members are working with borough officials to pass ordinances to crack down on nuisance properties and landlord/tenant issues. “Just in the last two to three months a code enforcement officer was hired, which is a move in a positive direction,” he said.

Brogan said many people are reluctant to get involved with crime watch groups or to report suspicious activity to the police out of fear. “We don’t patrol or put anyone in harm’s way,” he said, pointing out that crime watch members receive a secure pin number, which they give to 911 dispatchers when making a report, rather than their names. “We’re all about safety.”

Neighborhood crime watch groups serve as the eyes and ears of the community, especially in small towns with limited or no police departments. The Dupont Police Department has eight officers, all part-time. The Duryea Police Department has 15 officers; two full-time and 13 part-time, and the Avoca Police Department has 12 officers; 2 full-time and 10 part-time.

Avoca Police Chief Dave Homschek urged residents to keep a look out for and report suspicious activity. “People know their own neighborhoods,” he said. “If you see something that’s not right, it probably isn’t.”