Night Out is a feather in Bethlehem’s cap

Published 11:55 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It was a hot summer night last month when Suffolk communities, businesses and government agencies got together to take a stand against crime in the area. The temperature outside had cooled by Monday night, but things were still hot for the Bethlehem community, which celebrated its third straight first-place award for best community event in support of the National Night Out.

The National Night Out celebration took place in neighborhoods around Suffolk on Aug. 4.

About 18 neighborhoods comprising the Bethlehem area participated in that community’s event, which included performances by the Peanut City Cloggers and other entertainers, along with informational handouts, food and beverages and fun for all ages. About 800 people attended the event at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club, more than were on hand for any of the city’s other events that night.

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Clearly the Ruritans in the Bethlehem community have figured out how to throw a party in support of the city’s crime-fighters. It’s a testament to the hardworking, honest folks in that area that they’re willing to stand so strongly united against crime and the problems it brings to a community.

Though they didn’t reach Bethlehem’s level of participation, others in Suffolk also contributed to the success of the event. The National Night Out committee presented the second-place community award to the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the rookie community of the year award to Burbage Grant.

All three communities are to be commended for the impact they have on Suffolk as a whole. And other parts of the city would do well to notice and emulate their success.

Only when all of the city’s communities take similar ownership of Suffolk’s crime problems will residents be fully confident of their ability to eradicate the evils of gangs, violence and drugs from their neighborhoods. The National Night Out gives those communities a way to share the responsibility for finding solutions. But those solutions can’t be confined just to Bethlehem and Burbage Grant.

Perhaps the successful Night Out events of last year (when Suffolk won first place nationally for cities of its size) and this year will encourage other Suffolk neighborhoods to get involved in the fight. That kind of success would be even more important than the winning of awards.