Crime fighting effort to be held Aug. 2

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By John Barnhart

Bedford will observe its second National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

    National Night Out was first developed by the National Association of Town Watch back in 1984. Bedford observed it for the first time last year and the national organization was impressed with Bedford’s first effort.
    “We got rookie of the year,” Lt. Todd Foreman, of the Bedford City Police Department said. Foreman oversaw the effort last year and will do so again this year.
    “They liked what we did,” he added.
    National Night Out is a crime fighting effort. Two of its goals is to increase public support for the local crime fighting effort and foster good relations between the community and local law enforcement.
    The event runs from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Bedford Farmers Market. Like last year, there will be free entertainment. Foreman said that Acoustic Drive, which performs country music, will be there.
    “They volunteered their time,” Foreman said.
    Another feature from last year that will carry over are door prizes. These are items donated by area businesses and will be given out throughout the night.
    And, there will be free food. Foreman said that hamburgers and hot dogs will be available.
    City police plan to be there with impaired vision goggles and golf carts. The googles simulate the problem a person who has had too much to drink will have trying to walk a straight line or drive one of the golf carts. The idea is to create awareness of how impaired a drunk driver is.
    “That’s part of crime prevention,” Foreman said.
    A number of agencies and organizations involved in law enforcement and public safety will be on hand with information. The local Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, formerly Blue Ridge Thunder, will be there. So will CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). These are volunteers who are appointed by the juvenile and domestic relations court to help out when cases involving children come before the court. The court appointed volunteer makes a report to the judge to help him determine what is best for the children. CASA may be asking for your help because the organization needs volunteers and training classes for new volunteers will start up soon.
    Other agencies and organizations will include the health department, the victim/witness advocate and the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department and Bedford Rescue Squad.
    The forensic nurses from Bedford Memorial Hospital will also be there. These are specially trained nurses who work in the emergency room and can document injuries that a crime victim has suffered. This is admitted as evidence in court when the alleged perpetrator is tried and the nurses can also testify as expert witnesses.
    Foreman said that he’s sent out invitations to the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and the state police to have representatives there as well.
    Some local youth are going to be honored. The Bedford Central Library has nominated three students for good citizenship awards. Three others will be honored for winning essays in a contest sponsored by the library and the police department.
    The library and Wharton Garden is a Project 365 area. Project 365 is a program sponsored by Town Watch in which a locality focuses on an area and develops plans to deal with problems there.
    Foreman said that the area around the library had been the source of numerous small complaints as well as vandalism.
    “The damage to property was quite expensive,” Foreman said.
    Officer Tim Stanley headed up the Project 365.
    Stanley said that, after an analysis of what was going on, the police department adopted a zero tolerance policy for violations there. People committing even minor violations were charged and prosecuted. The idea is that, if police routinely tolerate minor violations, it sends the message that nobody cares. Then, the level of problems and their seriousness, rises.
    They also adopted a policy of investigating all citizen complaints, even the most minor and a police car was periodically set up with a video camera. They also increased foot patrols and bike patrols.
    “It’s hard to see those bikes,” Stanley said.
    The project set as its goal: “A safe, friendly, fair environment for all persons to enjoy the Bedford Public Library in peace and harmony.”
    The police work with the librarians. The library can bar a person from library property for causing problems. Then, if that person returns while still barred, the police can step in and charge him with trespassing. They don’t hesitate to do that.
    Since the library became a Project 365, complaints have dropped. Stanley said that the ultimate goal is a 70 percent decrease in incidents there.
    The good citizen and essay awards were created because a number of incidents have involved Bedford Middle School students. The school is near the library and some teens have created problems, including bullying younger children. The goal is to encourage them to behave better.