(ran East, South edition)
"Everyone's taking to the wheels this year," sheriff's Detective Tony Rizzo says of participation in the 13th annual National Lights Out campaign on Aug. 6.
They're Rollerblading Against Crime in Pinellas Village, they're Skateboarding Against Crime in south Pinellas and in the Pasadena area, and they're Biking Against Crime in Bonnie Bay.
Last year 25-million people nationwide participated in the event by turning on porch and house lights to support crime prevention. Rizzo, a crime prevention specialist, estimates about 300 communities and mobile home parks joined the effort in the unincorporated areas of Pinellas County. "With the mind-set against crime this year, we might just surpass that," he said.
This year's national theme is "Give Neighborhood Crime and Drugs a Going-Away Party." Party plans are being made in numerous neighborhoods to encourage residents to mingle.
An in-line-skating-by-flashlight party has been easy to prepare for at Pinellas Village, a single-parent complex on 84th Lane between Park Street and Park Boulevard.
"Everyone here loves to rollerblade," said Kerri Gaetz, the Crime Watch chairwoman. "Even the moms get out."
A circular track is being set up, with several free drink and snack stations along the perimeter. Hot dogs have been provided by resident Kathy Wargo, and prizes have been donated by Kym Sanz of the Village Boutique and will be given to in-line skating families. Music will set the pace, and a sheriff's deputy will help supervise the fun. There are 120 apartments with 170 children in Pinellas Village.
"I expect to see everyone out there skating," Gaetz said.
Communities bordering the Intracoastal Waterway also will join the fun through their Marine Crime Watch groups. Residents in Gulfport, Pasadena, Tierra Verde and Indian Rocks Beach are arranging to meet at a designated dock and have a flotilla take a stand against crime. Refreshments and crime prevention materials will be distributed at open houses along the way.
In the Lealman area, some residents will walk a designated route along the Pinellas Trail. They'll return for refreshments and to receive crime prevention materials in open houses throughout their neighborhoods. Residents of mobile homes will walk park streets and meet in recreation halls for "share a dish" meals and anti-crime displays.
One of the more interesting ideas comes from Lealman's Clear Vista neighborhood. Organizers Donna Izor and Katy Fye are planning an evening Poker Walk.
What's a poker walk?
It's similar to a scavenger hunt. The object, however, is to have the best poker hand at the end.
At the start, each participant is given a blank sheet of paper and a clue. He The participant must figure out the clue to find the next location. At locations two through eight, the participant will draw from a deck of playing cards, then record on the card drawn. Each participant then will be given another clue to continue to the next location.
Residents at several locations will serve small snacks to allow neighbors to compare notes and meet each other along the way. At the end of the walk, prizes will be given to the family and individual with the best poker hands.
"It's just one more way for our community getting out," Izor explained. "Everyone has a box of cards."