I remember when I was a kid a lady would come out with a strap over her head and clear that basketball court when we’d be carrying on or out too late.John Pelote, longtime Guyton resident
GUYTON — John Pelote is fully capable of taking matters into his own hands. He’s too smart to do that, however.
Pelote is achieving his goal of improving the safety level of his neighborhood by having more hands, eyes and ears participate in the process. He was instrumental in the creation of a Neighborhood Watch program that was approved the Guyton City Council on May 11.
“Our problems have already been reduced 60-70 percent,” Pelote said during a June 12 neighborhood event at Highland Park on Samuel Smalls Avenue.
The gathering, which featured hamburgers and hot dogs prepared by City of Guyton officials, was designed to spread the word about Neighborhood Watch, which features neighbors working together and in conjunction with the Guyton Police Department to reduce crime and improve their quality of life.
Pelote was spurred primarily by speeding vehicles that endangered unsuspecting children and elderly residents.
“Neighbors used to see speeding and other things going on and they would only talk about it to each other,” Pelote said. “It wasn’t getting reported to the police. The police couldn’t do anything about it if they didn’t know.”
Bothered by the disconnect, Pelote established a bond with Chief James Breletic of the Guyton Police Department. They met several times in advance of the June 12 community event that served as a recruiting tool.
“We want all the citizens within that area (to participate in Neighborhood Watch),” Breletic said. “This is a pilot program. That’s what we’re looking at and, hopefully, it will be lodged in the future for any neighborhood that wants to go forward with this.”
Pelote and others in his neighborhood have a healthy appreciation of law enforcement officers. They are not proponents of “defunding the police,” a notion that is growing in popularity across the country.
“We want to help the police and our neighborhood,” said Pelote, who added that he isn’t worried about the possibility of retribution from people opposed to cooperating with law enforcement.
Pelote has lived in Guyton for many years. He has fond memories of simpler days when neighbors looking out for each other was not unusual.
“I remember when I was a kid a lady would come out with a strap over her head and clear that basketball court when we’d be carrying on or out too late,” he said. “There are rules and we need to make sure they are followed.”
Signs have been erected to mark Guyton’s initial Neighborhood Watch area. They say, “We call the police.”
“It’s not just a sign,” Breletic said. “We really want people to call 911.”
The area is rife with more concerns about potential crimes than actual wrongdoing.
“It’s a great neighborhood,” Breletic said before the May 11 city council vote. “It’s just that various people are using it as a cut-through and it is causing a lot of problems, and we need to cut that down.”
The Guyton Police Department has boosted its presence in the watch zone since May 11. It is also in the midst of having overgrown shrubbery and limbs removed to increase visibility, especially at street corners.
Children frequently ride bikes in the streets. Seniors citizens also like to walk in the area for exercise.
Breletic is looking into improving street lighting in the neighborhood, too.
“A lot of the lighting over there is completely dull,” he said May 11. “It’s using the old-fashioned yellow lighting, which is good that it doesn’t attract bugs but it’s not very good for lighting. (Replacing it) would be a cost for the council and I would come back before the council and explain what that cost would be before anything would be done whatsoever.”
Neighborhood Watch has unanimous support from the Guyton City Council. Mayor Russ Deen and Councilmembers Marshall Reiser, Hursula Pelote, Michael Johnson and Joseph Lee attended the June 12 gathering.
“I think it’s a great idea, a great improvement for our city,” Reiser said before the vote that kicked off the program.