Neighbors plan crime-fighting event

Kent Ave. group continues to take back community

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

People who live in the Kent Avenue corridor in La Plata are invited to attend a rally against violence Saturday in the Phoenix Run neighborhood.

The neighborhood — consisting of Phoenix Run, Kent Square and Heritage Place –was riddled with drug use, loitering and other criminal activity about a decade ago, but several years ago La Plata Mayor Gene Ambrogio, then a councilman, and the people who live in the corridor decided to take the neighborhood back.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Paddy Mudd grabbed the torch when she was elected and although there are still some problems in the neighborhood, an active fight against crime waged by the residents, the La Plata Police Department and Charles County Sheriff’s Office has netted positive results, according to police and council officials.

The Community Awareness Day event May 17 is a celebration of what the community has accomplished in the fight against crime and an exercise to remind residents to remain vigilant to keep the momentum going in the right direction, said Candace Chisholm-Keeling, who is organizing the event that is sponsored by the Kent Avenue Corridor Partnership Committee.

Chisholm-Keeling said she decided to get involved in the war against crime in her community after her 11-year-old son, Joshua, was assaulted several months ago right in front of her home.

‘‘A bell went off after that happened,” she said. ‘‘I said ‘OK something is wrong with this picture.’

‘‘I don’t want to see kids go down the wrong road,” she added. ‘‘I want them to see the consequences of violence and crime.”

To that end, the main feature at the event will be a raffle where kids are asked to select a ticket. Each ticket will have a crime written on it, Chisholm-Keeling said.

Each kid will be walked through the process of what happens to a person if he or she commits that crime, she said, adding that there will be people who will represent police officers, a prosecutor and a public defender.

‘‘I want them to walk through the criminal justice process,” she said. ‘‘We’ll put a fun spin on it, but we want everyone to know that we want to keep our community safe.”

Everyone who picks a raffle ticket will be rewarded with a prize, Chisholm-Keeling said.

The event will also feature a community cleanup beginning at 8 a.m., face painting and plenty of food and beverages supplied by local eateries.

In addition, Rod Milstead, a graduate of Henry E. Lackey High School in Indian Head who played with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers and a local businessman, will be the keynote speaker, Chisholm-Keeling said.

Charles County Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II will also speak during the event, Chisholm-Keeling said.

It is heartening how the residents of the Kent Avenue Corridor have taken back their community, said Sandy Washington, executive director of LifeStyles Inc. in La Plata and the Ministers Alliance of Charles County and Vicinity.

‘‘The people who live there are making this happen,” she said. ‘‘The people in the community are taking ownership of it. They’re the driving force.”

The raffle ticket concept is a great way to teach kids what will happen if they become involved in criminal activity, Washington said.

‘‘It will show them the process, this is what happens,” she said. ‘‘It’s significant that they are including this in the event.”

Ward 2 Councilman Scot Lucas said he is impressed with the way community members are fighting back against crime in their neighborhood.

‘‘I’m very excited about it,” he said. ‘‘This type of event really shows the spirit of La Plata. It’s nice to see everybody get together for an event like this.”

La Plata Police Chief Casey Gittings said the event will teach kids a valuable lesson that will be fun, too.

‘‘I hope to see everyone there,” he said during a recent La Plata Town Council meeting. ‘‘We’re going to have a good time.”

Join the fight against crime

The Kent Avenue Corridor Partnership Committee is holding a Community Awareness Day from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 17 at the basketball court in the Phoenix Run neighborhood off Kent Avenue in La Plata.

Activities include an exercise where kids select a raffle ticket that indicates a certain type of crime and they are walked through the process of what happens if they actually commit the crime.

Several speakers are invited to attend, including Rod Milstead, a former player with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers who is a graduate of Henry E. Lackey High School.

Food provided by local eateries will be available.

A neighborhood cleanup is scheduled at 8 a.m. to kick off the event.

Call Candace Chisholm-Keeling at 301-392-1529.

The Kent Avenue Corridor Partnership Committee meets the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the La Plata Police Department, 101 La Grange Ave.

Call 301-934-1500.