Suffolk has good ‘Night Out’

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

By Tracy Agnew and Alex Perry

Thousands of Suffolk citizens took part in dozens of National Night Out celebrations across the city Tuesday night.

The nationwide crime-fighting event aims to build partnerships between communities and law enforcement. Neighborhoods in Suffolk celebrated with cookouts, children’s activities and, most importantly, getting to know one another and the public safety officials that serve their neighborhoods.

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“It’s important to me, because it gives us a chance to come together one on one,” said Sallie B. Person, vice president of Westside Civic League of the Boston and Williamstown communities. “We know there are bad things out there, but there is good within us all. We’re hoping, tonight, we’ll shine so others can see.”

Krysa Johnson, 5, and Shakala Johnson, 5, smile with painted faces at the National Night Out event held at Magnolia Park in College Square on Tuesday.

National Night Out exists to show a united front against crime and tell criminals they are not welcome and to help bolster relationships between neighbors, officials said.

“We’re going to tell crime to go away,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during Tuesday’s kickoff at the Suffolk Visitor Center. “We don’t want you.”

“Take a few moments and introduce yourself to somebody you haven’t met before or catch up with a neighbor you don’t get to see very often and strengthen that relationship,” City Manager Patrick Roberts said.

The Westside Civic League had a cookout and held a drawing for prizes such as gift cards and a slow cooker for the adults and school supplies for children.

“It’s about getting involved,” said Greater Oakland and Chuckatuck Civic League volunteer Rick McCleod. “Don’t just stand by. This is our neighborhood. If we can work together, then we can stomp out crime.”

“I think it’s real important for the community to get out and bond with your neighbors,” Chuckatuck resident Walter Jones said. “I think this is the most important thing we ever brought to Chuckatuck.”

Chuckatuck residents enjoyed food, a petting zoo and more while they were getting to know new friends and catching up with old friends.

Suffolk Church of God held a National Night Out celebration for the third year with food, a bounce house, a petting zoo and cornhole.

“We’re just connecting with the neighbors to be a part of the community and help make the community a better place,” Pastor Aaron Burgess said.

Antwan Robinson is director of the C.H.O.I.C.E. program, which sponsored a celebration at a vacant lot on the corner of Wilson and Wellons streets.

“It’s important because everyone came together to make this event happen,” he said. “It was about time for us to become a part of each other. Everybody’s getting along. This is what it’s supposed to be.”

Turnout in the College Square community was the best in many years, coordinator Everlina Lacey said.

“College Square hasn’t seen an event like this in years,” Lacey said.

Portsmouth resident Vanessa Beamon even came out to Suffolk to participate in National Night Out at College Square.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “You can tell everyone came together and did a beautiful job.”

In College Square, young people played football at the park while others enjoyed food and chatted.

During the kickoff, Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett reported that violent crime is only slightly up, bucking a regional trend that has seen double-digit increases in nearby cities. The last two months, violent crime has actually gone down.

“Things like that don’t happen by accident,” he told the crowd at the kickoff.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Glassman addressed the yearlong theme, “Lock It, Don’t Lose It,” during his speech at the kickoff.

“Avoid becoming the victims of crime,” he said. “Simply locking the doors will deter someone who might just be looking for an easy target.”

Glassman also recommended keeping vehicles tidy and hiding or removing electronics and accessories.

See more photos from Suffolk’s National Night Out celebrations here.