Police say they hope the party will lead to neighborhood watchPBy Joe Beck
By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- Woodstock police got what they hoped for Wednesday at a community block party held at the Valley Vista apartment complex.
Children just off their school buses swarmed happily around officers, joined a bike rodeo and made fast work of free hot dogs and potato chips offered in the first of several such events intended to encourage the formation of neighborhood watch groups throughout the town.
Officer Joshua Wilberger estimated the crowd at about 100.
"This is a great event," Wilberger exulted. "We've got a lot of people here."
Officer Michael Hottle conceived of the block party after seeing children on bicycles darting into the street with no helmets during his bike patrols through the area.
"It kind of spawned into an idea for broadening the neighborhood watch program," Hottle said.
Police have scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the John S. Perry House in the Valley Vista complex to organize a neighborhood watch program, the first of its kind in Woodstock.
Police Chief Eric Reilly said the town already has a neighborhood watch program in place for the entire town. The block party was the opening of a new initiative that will try to create smaller neighborhood watch groups in apartment complexes throughout Woodstock.
Other places where future block parties are planned include Woodstock Village, Ridge Apartments, Ox Road condominiums and the Lora Drive area.
Valley Vista was the scene of a death investigation earlier in the year that led to a charge of capital murder being filed against Nicole Dawn Miller, a former resident now in jail awaiting trial. Miller is accused of taking the life of the 20-month-old son of her boyfriend with whom she was living.
Hottle denied any link between the murder case and the decision to hold the first neighborhood block party in Valley Vista, which is the most heavily populated apartment complex in Woodstock.
"Obviously, where you have more people, you get more calls," Hottle said.
The Miller case seemed far from the mind of Debra Fernandez, who was seated at a table eating hot dogs and chips with her three children, Eliot, 3, Olivia, 5, and Eloy 2.
We've got the best cops in the country," Fernandez said. "They're friendly."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org