Fed up East Patchogue residents have formed a civic organization, charging that drug dealings and an increase in abandoned homes have hurt their neighborhood in the past two decades.
About 30 people attended the third meeting of the newly created Miramar Beach Civic Association last Tuesday night, addressing such issues as forming a neighborhood watch program, electing officers and setting annual membership dues, which may be $25.
"We've united, and there is power in numbers," said Jacquelyn Schwicke, a 28-year resident of the hamlet, an 8.5-square-mile census-designated place on Long Island's South Shore. Its population was about 22,500 as of 2010, officials said.
Schwicke, the association's founder and organizer, says problems plaguing the community include drug deals, wandering pit bulls, irresponsible homeowners renting to bad tenants, and poor drainage -- which all lower property values.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Tim Mazzei, whose 5th District includes East Patchogue, said recently that he was unaware a civic group had formed. But it was announced at Tuesday's meeting that he plans to meet with the group next month to discuss their concerns.
That's good news to some.
"I'm hoping that this association will bring more attention to the neighborhood," said Christina Barbarello, 35, who said several cars have been broken into recently. Barbarello, a 13-year resident, said her own vehicle was broken into a few years ago. Suffolk police did not immediately have crime statistics for East Patchogue.
During the meeting, former Brookhaven Town public safety officer George DeMott, 55, circulated literature on starting a neighborhood watch program. "One reason I want to get involved is to make sure people won't do what they shouldn't," DeMott, a resident of nearly 30 years, told the crowd. "We're not out there being police officers. We're not out there to prevent a crime, but to deter one."
But one woman in the audience with a special-needs daughter asked about protocol and whether watch members would stop her child while walking. Audience members advised watch members to use common sense when approaching strangers.
Organizers told the woman more information would be available in coming weeks and urged those interested to sign up for the committee.
Schwicke said the civic group's purpose is to spur action. "There is a real sense of belonging here, and we saw things we didn't want. We need to take better care of properties," said Schwicke, a social worker.
The association, which plans to register with the state to become a legally recognized body, is scheduled to meet every fourth Tuesday at the Hagerman Fire Department, 510 Ralph T. Perry Dr.