Late night lemonade stand targets crime

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A lemonade stand running at 9 p.m. on a Friday night?  That’s what folks saw at the Phillips 66 station at the intersection of Lincolnway and Adams in South Bend and it wasn’t any normal lemonade stand.

Friday night’s lemonade stand was the second to be run by the group South Bend Neighborhoods: Problems, Suggestions, Solutions.  The concept is to set up a stand giving out free lemonade in a high crime area to disturb the normal criminal activity if only for a few hours.  The hope is that the temporary lull in crime gives residents a chance to come out, talk and see what their community would look without crime.  It’s a strategy that has been successful in other cities and is just starting up in South Bend.

“Eventually we hope to kind of crack down on the drug dealings and the crime just with our presence,” explained Melissa Stokely, one of the group’s organizers.  “The police are very involved in what we're doing."

The group’s first lemonade stand was held at the intersection of Adams and Vassar, where three people have been fatally shot in 2012.  The choice of Friday’s location was chosen because of the Phillip’s 66 station’s reputation as a hub for illegal activity.

"The Phillips 66 is like a central location for a lot of traffic in and out of there good and bad, they have a lot of dealings, drug dealings that happen in the parking lot” Stokely described.  “There's been crimes there numerous times; it's just a continuing problem."

From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. a dozen people manned the stand handing out free lemonade and cookies to anybody who walked by.  Many people, many of them young, stopped by to get the free snacks and listen to what group members had to say.  It was a far different scene than what some say normally happens at the location on a Friday night.

 "It's a hotspot for them, so what we want to do is just kind of deter them for at least a couple of hours, get them out of the area for a little bit,” Stokely said.  “Talk to people that are going in and out find out what they want to see done."

Earlier in the day many nearby residents expressed skepticism about how many people would be willing to come out to the area so late at night.  Many asked not to be named when describing how often crimes happen at the station for fear of reprisal for speaking out, which is the point of the lemonade stand according to Stokely.

"That's why we're there, to show that we aren't fearful and that's what people need to do,” she explained.  “They need to come out of their homes, show that they're not fearful, don't let the bad guys take it over like they have and just show that it's their community, it's their neighborhood, it's time to take it back."

South Bend Neighborhoods: Problems, Suggestions, Solutions holds weekly meetings at South Bend’s Civil Rights Heritage Center and anyone is invited to attend.  The group is also very active on Facebook.

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