By Casey Neill
Dawn Vernon has been shining a light on community safety for more years than she can remember.
She’s lived in Noble Park for 70 years but isn’t sure exactly when she first joined Neighbourhood Watch.
“I went from house to house to start it in our area,” she said.
She had four children at the time so joining the committee came later.
She’s now been the Greater Dandenong Neighbourhood Watch president for many years, with her husband Reg serving alongside her as secretary.
Ms Vernon’s years of dedication earned her a Victoria Police Divisional Commendation for Commitment to Community Safety.
Southern Metro Region Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill presented the honour to Ms and Mr Vernon on Tuesday 20 February.
“I’m so stoked,” Ms Vernon said.
She always has Neighbourhood Watch newsletters in her handbag.
“When I see people walking along the street, I stop my car,” she said.
“It’s very important that we get the news out to the people.
“The police can’t be in every street.
“They can’t be around every corner, so we are the eyes and ears for them.
“If we see a dumped car, if we see something suspicious, we either ring Crime Stoppers or if it’s happening there and then, we call triple-zero.
“We work with them.”
Ms Vernon said she was getting tired, but Neighbourhood Watch gave her “a lease of life”.
“I love meeting people. The more people I meet, the happier I am,” she said.
She encouraged people to volunteer with the group.
“It might just be folding the newsletters or helping with the computer,” she said.
“It could be once a year, say at the Dandenong Show or Australia Day.
“If everyone did just a little bit it would be fantastic.”
Greater Dandenong Local Area Commander Inspector Mark Langhorn nominated the Vernons for the award.
“She deserves some recognition, and Reg as well,” he said.
“I wanted to push the importance and the value of Neighbourhood Watch.
“It gives us that connection with the community.
“You get to hear what’s important and what’s troubling them. Sometimes it’s a good perspective.”
Insp Langhorn said it gave police and the community an opportunity to work together.
“It’s an honour to work with someone like Dawn and Reg, who’ve been volunteering their time for many years,” he said.
“It makes our role a bit easier.”
He attends the group’s meetings as often as he can.
“We want to give feedback to the community on what’s been happening, and have discussions about safety and crime prevention,” he said.
The next meeting will be held at the Paddy O’Donoghue Centre in Noble Park from 7.30pm on Wednesday 21 March. Ass Comm Hill is to be the guest speaker.
Visit www.facebook.com/nhwgreaterdandenong or call Dawn Vernon on 0407 325 030 for more information.