AVON PARK – Neighborhoods across the county came together last week to meet the law enforcement officers who are patrolling their areas. It was an evening of fun, food and introductions.

Sheriff Paul Blackman welcomed the crowd at Redland Christian Migrant Association, thanking the residents for welcoming the COPS ADAPT program into the community. He recalled the May 5th game of tug-o-war that took place between his deputies and the neighborhood children. “I have some of the biggest deputies in the world, but those kids beat them,” he joked.

To the audience of about 75, he said, “Thank you for allowing us to be part of your community.”

Undersheriff Mike Brown echoed Blackman’s comments, adding that when the law enforcement officers get to know the residents in the community they protect on a personal level, good things will happen.

In an environment where residents and law enforcement come together in a relaxed setting, everyone has an opportunity to talk and spend time with each other, said Lt. Tyrone Tyson.

National Night Out is held the first Tuesday evening in August. Tyson said this was the first year that the program was brought into the community served by RCMA. “Next year we want it to be bigger and better,” he said.

National Night Out is a community-building campaign to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make safer, more caring places to live. Tyson said the unit hopes COPS ADAPT will be the link to make that happen.

Becky Tyson, community liaison for COPS, told the audience that one of the goals of the unit is to create safe neighborhoods and invest time with the children. “We want to give the community a person you can turn to, to address any issue that comes up,” she said.

She said plans include to start a Community Action Committee, which would be an interactive group that would work to solve problems in the community ... “issues you feel need to be addressed.”

Another event planned would be a joint effort between the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Justice where they would meet with members of the community to try to break through respectably any issues that cause divisiveness. The unit also plans to start a youth leadership program for high school students.

Residents who are interested in any of the three planned groups are encourage to contact Becky Tyson at the HCSO.

A K-9 demonstration with the HCSO and Avon Park Correctional Institution took place outside, where guests were also served hot dogs and children could get backpacks.

Inside, guests were treated to ice cream cones or a root beer float.

Sponsors of the event in Avon Park were James Brown Famous Bar-B-Que, New Generation/Daughters of Hadassa, America First A/C & Heat, Dowden Funeral Home, Lakeside Air Conditioning, Ridge Florist, D&B Kettle Corn, Avon Park Correctional Institution, Parke Sutherland Law, Jarrett-Gordon Ford, Castle on Delaney Restaurant and Southside Community Resource Center.

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