BY ROSALYN STEVENS EMC News - A large group of residents‘ from Lepage Ave. gathered last weekend to celebrate the kick-off of their Neighbourhood Watch program. As of last Saturday morning, more than 120 people had joined the watch group. Ottawa Community Housing Corporation (OCHC) Chief Executive Officer Jo Anne Poirier said she is very happy to see the community rally together in this way. “I’m really proud and excited." she said, ridding that the residents have formed a Strong partnership with OCHC and the Ottawa Po- lice Service. . “What I'm particularly excited about is that our OCHC tenants are working with their neighbours." Ms. Poirier said the watch is modeled after the success of the same program in the Foster Farm community and is hopeful that this neighbourhood will see similar results. Foster Farm residents saw calls for police attendance drop more than half from 96 calls in one year before Neighbourhood Watch was in place. ‘It's a model that's shown that it works." she said, "and it’s also very compatible with the Ottawa Community Housing healthy communities initiative." Harry Kingston, who oversees the program in the Crystal Beach/Lakeview community told the Lepage residents they should be proud of themselves for stepping up to take back their community. "On your ﬂoor and in your building and in your community. [you] have the ability to make a change.” He said. “You don't take things into your own hands. You just keep your eyes and ears open." River ward Conn. Maria McRae told the residents she was especially proud of their progress given the level of fear and anger the same group expressed regarding their safety a year ago. She said she is thrilled to see them take the issues on themselves in this form. “I'm not going to give up on your community," the councilor said. “if you look around this room, this is evidence that we're all walking the walk together.’ Ottawa Police Chief Vern White was also on hand, congratulating the group for their effort. He said he drove through the neighborhood, taking note of the issues and concerns residents had and is happy to see the progress to this level. "I do know that your community matters to you and we cannot afford for it not to matter to us," he said. Jerry Pool is the coordinator for residents in 1400 and 1390 Lepage Ave. He said he was very happy with the turnout or the community for last. weekend's event, noting he hopes this means even more people will join the Neighbourhood Watch. Mr .Pool said the area has already seen some improvements and expects more as the program continues to grow and expand. “it's getting a lot better than it was a year ago," he explained, "because a few of the troublemakers are gone already." Const. Abdul Ahdi community police officer for Parkwood Hills, said he was excited to be a part of the kick-off event, something that the community has worked very hard towards. Assuming his current role just after the initial planning for a Neighbourhood Watch began, Const. Abdi said he hit the ground running and has had great support from the residents. "You don't have to live in this community to care about this community," he said. Const. Ahdi said he wants to see the community grow and prosper, have residents feel conﬁdent about their surroundings, and have the -sense that they've taken back their homes. While he said the efforts of Foster Farm are exceptionally commendable, he noted that the work that will be done in the Lepage community could be different on some levels. “Where there's a challenge there’s an opportunity.” Const. Abdi said. “And this is, what I saw in this."