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Neighbor to Neighbor: Looking to boro past as a new year begins

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Some 12 years ago, crime overwhelmed our communities, our city, and our country so completely that I asked the TimesLedger Newspapers to include a police blotter itemizing local crime. The editor invited me to write this column.Dealing with crime is always frustrating, but it is even more so when it involves the suspicious disappearance of someone known to have a good reputation. A case in point occurred many years ago when a young lady named Stacey Ann Penant disappeared after a movie date in Brooklyn. The New York Police Department, her family and I assisted in a systematized search of some of the Brooklyn swamps near her last known location. We found rusted car bodies, packs of wild dogs and shredded clothing, but no one who responded positively to the many flyers we distributed, nor did we find any material evidence that Stacey had been in that particular spot. Tired, and cold, we returned unsuccessful and frustrated. To this day, that case still gnaws at my mind. There is someone somewhere, maybe even in our own community, who holds the key to the fate of that then-21year-old pretty college coed. The case is still outstanding, and many of us still hope to learn the answer so that her family may regain some peace of mind.Sad though that was, we also had successes. Community policing proved to be one of them. Our population had become weary of crime and of being scared. As the saying goes now, if we saw or heard something, we said something, and we did so to our very own community policing officer. These officers were trained to know us and our problems Ð better than we knew them ourselves. We knew, liked and trusted them and were dissatisfied only when we were told "our" officer was to be transferred. It wasn't always easy. It isn't easy now either, but the improvement that teamwork made was immense. We no longer hear constant gunfire. What has been added to the mix in latter years are gangs, many of whom mess up space within their reach with the graffiti.Gang membership leads to nothing good, nothing healthy, and nothing profitable in the long run. Once in, however, a trusted police friend is the best hope for a safe exit Ð if the gang member is sincere and doesn't wait too long.During the last 12 years, our communities were invaded by multiple species of flying insects that have proven to create a different type of devastation. First came the West Nile Virus mosquito. Sadly, some members of the group settled right here in our midst and bit one of the Cornucopia Society volunteers, Sal Torrisi, with whom some of us had worked for years. His death was a tragedy that we hope will not be repeated. Prevention have since required annual spraying.The face of Merrick Boulevard has changed greatly in 12 years and is still doing so. Just within the last few weeks our Department of Parks and Recreation has done a spectacular job of planting healthy new trees. Many old buildings have come down and new buildings and businesses have rapidly replaced them. We have even been given fancy, new waste receptacles which were put in place through he good efforts of City Councilmen Scarborough and James Sanders in the hope that all those who usually drop their trash wherever they happen to be would take the hint to put their junk where it really belongs and not on the sidewalk or street.We still have many projects that remain unsettled, at least in my mind. I for one am very concerned about the treatment, (or lack thereof), being given to our veterans who gave unstintingly to help protect our country, resulting in great sacrifices to themselves and their families.Reports I have heard indicate that facilities and space meant to provide their needs and comfort are repeatedly targeted by others who deem some other cause "more worthy." The veterans, current and future, deserve the best. They must be our priority. To give them anything less than the best would be tantamount to a national disgrace of the first order.There are so many people demanding our government spend our money taking care of people all over the world. Why does it not occur to each of us that these veterans should be our first responsibility?May 2007 bring one and all wisdom to know and to do the right things, and may we all be blessed with good health, happiness and the prosperity we deserve.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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