City places 1st in NNO

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, December 8, 2016

Suffolk’s 2016 National Night Out celebration, held Aug. 2, placed first nationwide judged against localities of similar population sizes, officials announced Wednesday.

The city won in the 50,000-100,000 population category. The National Association of Town Watch judges the events based on material submitted by each locality, including a video.

Suffolk has placed in the top five in its population category for the last 11 straight years. This is the fourth time it has been No. 1.

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“It’s something special to win first place nationally once for a city, but to win it four times is truly amazing,” Police Chief Thomas Bennett said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting, when the presentation was made. “This has occurred due to the relationship our citizens have with our public safety partners and many other factors.”

National Night Out is an event started by the National Association of Town Watch. On the first Tuesday in August, neighbors are encouraged to get outside and meet their neighbors and the public safety officers who serve their communities in order to present a united front against crime.

In Suffolk, the celebration has taken the form of dozens of individual communities holding celebrations that often include cookouts, children’s activities, crime prevention awareness, entertainment and more.

The largest of those events — National Night Out at Obici, which was actually held at King’s Fork Middle School this year — was singled out for special nationwide recognition this year.

The event features a number of communities in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital. This year, it was moved to the school, a larger venue, and expanded to include all neighborhoods in the King’s Fork school district.

“It’s never really been about competing,” said Cusi Hamlin, one of the organizers of the event. “It’s been more about outreach into the community, but it’s kind of nice to get the recognition every once in a while.”

Hamlin said this was the first year the individual event had submitted a packet to compete.

The event was one of only seven in the nation to receive an individual award and recognition, city spokeswoman Diana Klink said on Wednesday.

“We’re really looking forward to next year,” Hamlin said. “Ideally, what we’d like to do is turn it into a big back to school event for everybody in the King’s Fork school district.” Hamlin encouraged anybody who is interested in joining the committee to email her at

Suffolk was the highest-ranking locality in the state this year and one of only two in the area to place nationally. Smithfield ranked No. 21 in its population category.

National Night Out started as a going-away party for crime, but it has gotten to be much more than that in Suffolk, Klink said Wednesday. It also helps build positive relations between the community and law enforcement, which is more important than ever before.

“Here, we know that events such as National Night Out and the impact they have on building relationships and rapport are immeasurable,” Klink said.

National Night Out is set for Aug. 1 next year. Visit or for more information.