North Port officers target neighborhood problem with barbecue

- South San Mateo Drive in North Port cuts through a quiet, peaceful neighborhood but there's one home that's put many on edge.

"It's constant watching over our shoulders," said Jennifer Hauser.

Neighbor Sierra Alain agrees.

"I've heard people walking through the middle of all the houses," said Alain.

Up and down the street, neighbors say it's a constant coming-and-going during all hours of the night. And whatever's going on in the house has caught most people's attention.

"It doesn't belong in our neighborhood," Hauser said.

One woman from the home was arrested after a traffic stop and officers say they found methamphetamine in the car.

Neighbors said they've placed dozens and dozens of calls and complaints with police. But the way officers responded this time really caught them off guard. Neighbors hope the response helps set residents at ease and lets others know their neighborhood is a good neighborhood.

"They had this idea in the morning," explained Assistant Chief Mike Pelfrey. "They said, 'Hey what can we do?'"

One officer came up with a simple, but great idea.

READ: North Port PD takes community policing seriously

"They said, 'Let's grill out. If we feed them, they will come," Pelfrey said.

A few officers and the assistant chief got a grill and a tent and set up a neighborhood barbecue. They placed it not too far from where the suspicious activity has been taking place.

"We just want to make sure that everyone is aware that we are aware. It's like we know that you know that we know that you know kind of thing," he said.

Neighbor after neighbor came to greet the officers at their barbecue. Officers even invited people from the problem house but were declined. Neighbors think the people in question got the message - that the neighborhood is fed up and police are watching.

"Most of the officers live very locally and it just proves that there is a vested interest in cleaning up this neighborhood," said Hauser. 

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