For one night, Suffolk stood united.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Across the city Tuesday evening, thousands of Suffolk residents – black and white, child and adult – joined together in the fight against crime by participating in nearly a dozen National Night Out festivities.

NNO – always the first Tuesday in August – uses neighborhood block parties as a way to generate support for anti-crime programs and strengthen police and community relations.

&uot;National Night Out is an event held in all 50 states,&uot; said Suffolk Police Sgt. John Sanker.

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&uot;It is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention, generate support for anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police/community partnership and send a message to criminals that we are not going to take it.&uot;

After the citywide kickoff at Constant’s Wharf, teams of police officers and firefighters spent three hours visiting parties across the city: Woodlake, Chorey Park, Huntersville,

Hall Place and the like.

Things got started early in Chorey Park, where dozens of senior citizens braved the heat to celebrate NNO with police and fire officials by feasting on a down-home country meal: fried fish, fried chickens, cabbage and baked beans.

&uot;It’s important for the community and police to come together,&uot; said Duck Daughtrey, who manned the grill. &uot;It helps us keep the community safe.&uot;

Chorey Park resident Samuel Lofton Jr., waiting in line to fill his plate, agreed.

&uot;National Night Out is very important,&uot; he said. &uot;It brings people closer together.

&uot;We like one big family out here celebrating. It’s all about family.&uot;

Down at the Colander Bishop apartment community, residents and their friends relaxed at a cookout while their children played badminton, threw horseshoes, and ran around the blocked off parking lot.

&uot;It’s fun,&uot; said Michael Holland, 10, preparing to blast a shuttlecock. &uot;I’m glad they have something for the kids to do. This keeps kids off the street.&uot;

Connie Smith, cradling her daughter, Ocierra, agreed.

&uot;We enjoy seeing the kids,&uot; said Smith, who was celebrating her first NNO in Suffolk after moving over from Portsmouth. &uot;This teaches kids the difference between having fun and getting in trouble.&uot;

Up South Main Street at Hall Place, other children learned the lesson as well.

&uot;This is about free ice cream and lots of friends,&uot; said Gabrielle Hollomon, 12. &uot;This brings everybody together and helps everybody understand each other.&uot;

While Gabrielle played with her two sisters and their pals, her mom Carolyn Hollomon sat down with her own cold treat.

&uot;We need to get some of the crime out of our neighborhood, like the gunshots,&uot; Carolyn said. &uot;If you have children (she had four), you want them to grow up in a safe neighborhood.&uot;

Police Capt. Stephanie Burch and some of her colleagues handed out gift bags, filled with hats, T-shirts, crime prevention brochures and other information.

&uot;We’re having a wonderful time,&uot; said Hall Place Association President Elaine Eason. &uot;(NNO) is an annual thing for Hall Place for prevention against crime, and we get to get out and meet our neighbors.&uot;

Across town, at the Coulbourn Park playground, cousins Titus Barclift, 7,

and Joseph Lawrence, 6,

swigged sodas and chatted with firefighter Lt. John D. Wilson.

&uot;The police car is neat,&uot; said Titus, adding that he was once inside a patrol car. &uot;But not to go to jail, just to take a little ride.&uot;

Despite most of the Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department leaving for a fire call, the community turned out in force for grilled hotdogs on the shared lawn between the fire department and community center.

&uot;We’re showing the citizens that the streets are for law abiding people and this is our night to say that,&uot; said

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Vaughn Breedlove, as he handed out toys and flyswatters.

On Pinner Street, the neighborhood gathered around fresh, homemade ice cream to celebrate the evening.

Four ice cream makers were churning as neighbors relaxed under large umbrellas and chatted.

&uot;We’ve been doing ice cream since the beginning,&uot; said Brenda Wallace, president of the Old Towne Civic League. &uot;We make our own.&uot;

At Hoffler Apartments on East Washington Street, the event – nearly a year in the planning – was an overwhelming success.

&uot;This is a ball,&uot; Housing Manager Delisha Lamb. &uot;We have a lot of food, a lot of fun and we’re doing our best to stomp out crime.&uot;

Burgers, dogs, candy, and many other foods and beverages were set up under tents.

A step/chant routine, put on by a large group of girls from the apartments was performed in front of everyone gathered on the front porches and patios around the parking lot.