About 550 people in the Sully Station II neighborhood celebrated National Night Out Tuesday night with an ice cream social, potluck dinners, the sound of police helicopters flying overhead and the latest musical beats emanating from block-party radios.
Organized by the Neighborhood Watch, the event demonstrated the community’s solidarity and support of the local police and fire department with eight block parties — from Flagler Drive to Kamputa Drive to Wood Creek Lane — each competing to earn prizes and the title for the best party, said an event organizer.
“This is the biggest we’ve ever had,” said Leslie Jenuleson, Neighborhood Watch coordinator for Sully Station II. “Each year it gets bigger and bigger and more competitive."
At the Flagler Drive block party, a May Pole was erected with colorful streamers arranged around the cul-de-sac. Residents sported red, white and blue leis and the Flagler Drive party was named the “reigning champions” for single-family homes last year. Neighbors could help themselves to tables of potluck goodies, barbecue, ice cream and Sno cones.
“The kids really get into this,” said Veronica Delaney, who was handing out Sno cones. “They start planning for this weeks in advance."
Sully District police officers drove their cars around the neighborhood visiting each block party. A fire truck from Station 38 made its rounds, delighting children and adults alike.
Mike Tucker, patrol supervisor with the Sully District police, said he works closely with the community and neighbors’ complaints.
“The information and intelligence is extremely helpful,” he said. “We work with (the Neighborhood Watch) closely because they really are an extension” of the police department.
Leslie Jenuleson echoed Tucker’s evaluation of the Neighborhood Watch.
“We’ve actually helped (the police) solve some crimes,” said Jenuleson, who recalls catching members of an escort service swimming in the pool at 2 a.m. “A lot of it is being the eyes and ears for the police."
Jenuleson said she started the Neighborhood Watch five years ago when gangs started patrolling the neighborhood. Since then, the watch has helped clean up gang graffiti, save cats from a flooded house and help apprehend a man who was exposing himself.
“Whenever there’s any type of crisis, we’re always here," said Jenuleson.
However, there have been false alarms. Dana Coffey and Mona Benbow, neighbors at the Kamputa Drive block party, said they remember spotting a suspicious vehicle parked near the home of a neighbor they knew was out of town. They called the police who discovered it was the neighbor's father-in-law sleeping in the den.
“All the neighbors were like ‘We didn’t know who he was,’” said Benbow.
Even if the crisis is a pet gone missing, the Neighborhood Watch will help. Jessica Morin, the host of the Wood Creek Lane block party, recounted the time she told Jenuleson she lost her cat.
“She helped me figure out how to find him,” Morin said. “I didn’t know our neighborhood had that."
Along with reports of missing pets, Jenuleson said she sends daily e-mails with police reports of criminal activity to some 700 residents.
The Neighborhood Watch has received numerous accolades, helping the neighborhood win the 2004 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the Community Associations Institute and the 2004 Citizens Award from the Virginia State Police. The Jenulesons were named Lord and Lady of Fairfax by Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey, for coordinating Neighborhood Watch. Besides Sully Station II, the watch is in charge of 13 communities in the area and trains other neighborhood watches in Virginia, Leslie Jenuleson said.