Rubonia neighborhood soon hoping to have safer streets

Neighborhood Watch Program aims to begin Oct. 1
Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 18:37:10-04
People living in the Rubonia neighborhood in Manatee County may soon have safer streets.
Manatee County leaders are aiming to cut down on crime through the start of a neighborhood watch program in the historic neighborhood.
More than 200 people call the neighborhood home, including Charles Miller, Sr.  
He has photographs and newspaper clippings dating back more than 30 years proudly displayed in his corner shop, called Chuck's Store.
"This is when they had the post office in Rubonia, back in the sixties," he said, showing ABC Action News a newspaper clipping.
He's prided himself on being able to watch the neighborhood change in his 66 years.
"I've seen it," Miller, Sr. said. "The good and the bad. I've seen it all."
For many years, Rubonia's been full of poverty, and most recently, reports of vandalism, burglaries, assaults and robberies.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Semi-Annual Uniform Crime reports, the Rubonia Neighborhood appears as having a relatively moderate-to-high concentration of crime from 2012-2015.
A review of Manatee County's Crime Mapping system shows there were 14 crimes mapped within the Rubonia neighborhood from January 14, 2016 to July 12, 2016. Eight of those crimes were assaults and two were larceny.
Other problems reported included vandalism, burglary, robbery and fraud.
"Just want to see a change in our community, to better our community," Miller, Sr. said.
"It's frightening," said Debbie DeLeon, of Manatee County Neighborhood Services. "Especially when you live in a small community."
Manatee County is now working to funnel money into Rubonia to start a neighborhood watch program and get the sheriff's office to work more closely with the people who live here. They hope to accomplish this through a Neighborhood Action Plan.
"It really takes the village concept of seeing something saying something and really going against crime for it to really stop," DeLeon said.
Preventing crime isn' t the only thing the plan would do. Manatee County also wants to add sidewalks to Rubonia's streets and drastically improve drainage.
The plan also aims to improve housing, reduce blight and revamp the neighborhood community center. It's welcome news to many residents.
"I'd like to see this community grow," said Jerome Gordon, who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life.
He's also hoping the start of the long-awaited neighborhood watch will cut down on crime here.
"I'd like to be zero because like I said, everybody knows each other," Gordon said.
Miller, Sr. can't wait to see what the plan will achieve.
"I hope I live to see what they say they gonna do," he said. "It would make my life complete."
Manatee County leaders will hold a public hearing to address the Neighborhood Action Plan on Tuesday, August. 23 at 10:30 am. They are expected to pass the plan shortly after. 
Then, the plan will need to be approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 
Many of the changes expected from the plan, including the start of the neighborhood watch program, are expected to take effect by Oct. 1.