Thousands take part in ‘Night Out’

Published 11:36 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Partygoers take part in Zumba at the National Night Out celebration at Sentara Obici Hospital, which combined the Applewood Farms, Burnett’s Mill and Hillpoint neighborhoods.

Partygoers take part in Zumba at the National Night Out celebration at Sentara Obici Hospital, which combined the Applewood Farms, Burnett’s Mill and Hillpoint neighborhoods.

By Tracy Agnew and William Scott

News Editor/Correspondent

Intermittent rain and unseasonably cool temperatures accompanied the spirit of National Night Out descending on Suffolk Tuesday night.

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Thousands of residents came together in their neighborhoods to present a united front against crime, make partnerships with one another and get to know their law enforcement officials.

“Each year when I attend National Night Out get-togethers, I see what makes our city so special, and what makes our city so special is our people,” Police Chief Thomas Bennett said during the kickoff event at the Suffolk Visitor Center Pavilion.

Bennett highlighted a 21-percent decrease in violent crime so far this year compared to the same time period last year, despite an increase in homicides. He attributed the drop to communities working together.

Brian Lemus, 5, envisions himself as a high-school graduate in a cutout with a cap and gown at a National Night Out party on Tuesday.

Brian Lemus, 5, envisions himself as a high-school graduate in a cutout with a cap and gown at a National Night Out party on Tuesday.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson also said that involvement of ordinary citizens is critical to steering young people away from a life of crime.

“It’s important we work together to keep our young people away from gangs,” Ferguson said. “Together, we can give at-risk youth our time, attention and alternatives to a gang lifestyle.”

More than 30 parties held throughout the city drew varying amounts of people, some in the dozens and some in the thousands. The common themes at every party were food and crime-fighting, but as Councilman Curtis Milteer said at the kickoff party, one was more important than the other.

“This is more than getting a hotdog or hamburger,” he said. “It’s about crime prevention.”

Fire Chief Cedric Scott said National Night Out is about taking a stand against crime.

“National Night Out says to crime, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore,’” he said. “We’re saying, ‘No more.’”

Visitors to local events said they came out to meet their neighbors and learn how to get more involved.

“I thought it would be really good to come out with my kids,” said Kristen Morris, who visited the event at Burbage Grant. “We signed up for Neighborhood Watch. I learned that you can sign up for Neighborhood Watch and receive emails about local crimes.”

“We’re here to support National Night Out and meet our neighbors,” said Hosannah Quino, who visited the event at the Hilton Garden Inn Harbourview.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said those who participated on Tuesday should aim for the same level of involvement 365 days a year.

“Let’s take tonight and make it every night in Suffolk,” she said.

See more photos from National Night Out on our Facebook page.