Saturday, July 21, 2012 | 6:18 p.m.
Victoria Toledo had been sitting in her mother’s apartment keeping cool on a typical, sweat-inducing Saturday afternoon when she heard voices and a guitar.
She decided to peer over her front balcony to see what the commotion was about. In the short time she’s been in town from Chicago visiting her mother at Karen Estates, she’s seen a dead body and police searching for some people who were armed.
This time, though, she saw something encouraging.
Toledo saw a parade of 30 men and women and a few Metro Police officers. They were just gathering for a prayer. She stepped down from the stair balcony and was greeted by two walkers, who offered to pray for anything that worried her. She asked for the safe travel of her 9-year-old daughter flying from Chicago to Las Vegas.
“It was very spiritual,” Toledo said. “I love it. I think most communities need to get together and be prayed for.”
Toledo had witnessed the Metro Police Southeast Area Command and local faith-based organizations like Hope for Prisoners joint effort prayer walk. Nearly 100 people, including state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, paraded through various apartment complexes near Mack Middle School. The goal was to let people living in an environment infested with criminal activity know they aren’t forgotten.
“It gives them hope,” said Paul Curran, who is a pastor in Boulder City and educates Clark Count School District students on drugs. “People look out and wonder, ‘What are they doing? Well, maybe there’s hope in this world yet.’”
Metro SEAC Capt. Vincent Cannito led the parade through the apartment complexes they were given permission to walk through. Most of the walkers involved came from churches and faith-based groups. They sang Christian songs along with an acoustic guitarist, prayed at each complex and conversed with residents offering prayer for any troubles they may be experiencing.
“I want people to know the community cares,” Cegavske said. “I want people to know they have something here going for them, that there’s something else.”
They winded through areas that appeared decent, but Cannito pointed out were only façades. He said holes in the cement wall were not accidents or marks from erosion, but a holding spot for drugs or weapons when police come; broken sections a quick get-away route.
Few residents ventured outside during the walk, making the areas seem like ghost towns. Melissa Abella wished more people were out, but said the ones who were seemed appreciative.
“If we saw more people, this would have a bigger impact,” Abella said. “But this is sowing a seed.”
Cannito said the apartments just outside Mack Middle School have been a hot spot for criminal activity. He said his patrol officers recently stopped a man setting up false drug deals, only to rob people of their money, and everyday they stop numerous felons.
“You wouldn’t want to live there,” Cannito said. “And if you don’t, think about an 8-year-old running around here. That’s why we’re here.”
Cannito said they’ve increased Metro Police presence in the area, but the walk will also help people know others care. He said it coincides with “Operation Hope,” an initiative designed to cut down on crime in the area and prevent future criminals. More walks will come, he said.
“We talked with (faith-based groups) and they said they wanted to organize something together,” Cannito said. “When the faith-based community says they support you, you don’t say no. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been good enough.”
The walk ended with a large barbecue at a nearby park that nearby residents were encouraged to attend. Walkers enjoyed hot dogs, music and cold water, and even a few nearby families showed up.
“This was an awesome opportunity for the community to come together,” said Jon Ponder, CEO of Hope for Prisoners. “When they see that sense of community, it encourages more.”