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Formation of Neighborhood Advocacy Program in Rockville Proposed

The initial outline was unveiled at Tuesday's RCA meeting.

Town officials, Vernon police, the Rockville Community Alliance and the Vernon Community Network are joining forces to create a new neighborhood advocacy program.

And it's far from the old block watch premise.

The block watch can translate into a concept of "we're going to tell on you," said Terilyn Rogers, who worked out the particulars of the program with Vernon Center Middle School principal Michael Cain. "This is about where you can go - in your community - if you need help."

And with that impassioned speech, the concepts of the neighborhood advocacy program were outlined on Tuesday at a meeting of the RCA at Bev's Corner.

"What will it look like? What is it about? Tonight, we have started that conversation," said Youth Services Director Alan Slobodien. "The concept begins tonight."

Rogers said so far, seven people have expressed interest in becoming neighborhood advocates and the program will begin recruiting more.

According to an outline handed out at the meeting, a neighborhood advocate is a person who can meet with with residents "and help them engage with the community in a positive manner."

Translation: "Residents who are engaged in the community are people who can appropriately interact with fellow community members, town institutions and service providers."

According to the outline, the neighborhood advocates should be:

• Trustworthy.
• Friendly and approachable.
• Patient.
• A Vernon resident.
• A person who can communicate with town agencies.
• In good physical health (for a lot of walking and home visits).

Rogers said the initial focus would be to recruit and establish a set of advocates to work in Rockville, but she did not rule out the possibility that the program would include the rest of Vernon some day.

"People are already doing this without a title - people who just want to reach out to others," Slobodien said. "This shows a support system for the good Samaritans in our neighborhoods."

The RCA will be the custodian of the program, according to the initial outline, because, according to Rogers, "It's what the RCA does."

And the police department is on board. Lt. Mel Hardy said it took a high-profile case to speed up the formation of the program.

"So we have a stabbing and take the victim to the hospital on the hood of a car and look what happens," he said. "It brought this the attention it needed."

Hardy said the department, which had been down about 20 percent in terms of  staffing because of injury and military deployment, is almost full, and that helps supplement the revitalized community police beat set up at the Ward Street substation.

Robert Marra, one of those community police officers, said the substation will have an open-door policy that will encourage advocates and general residents to repair suspicious activity, particularly in hot spots like Ward Street and the West main Street park.

More meetings will be scheduled to further develop the program, RCA officials said.

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