NNO unites communities

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Suffolk citizens spent Tuesday evening bonding with their neighbors and local law enforcement for the 35th annual National Night Out in communities all across the city.

The night began with a kick-off in City Council Chambers where public officials gave words of encouragement and reminded the city why they should celebrate National Night Out.

“This is our going away party for crime,” said Mayor Linda Johnson. “Take a moment and enjoy it.”

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The purpose of every community party was to remind its citizens to be more aware of crime prevention, strengthen neighborhood bonds and send a message to criminals. These simple ideas are why law enforcement in Suffolk believe that crime numbers are dropping.

According to Police Chief Thomas Bennett, violent crime in Suffolk is down 18 percent as of July 31.

“We, as law enforcement, cannot take all the credit for these numbers,” Bennett said. “It takes us and our citizens.”

While violent crime numbers are dropping in Suffolk, larceny numbers are rising. As of July 31, larceny is up 8 percent, and Bennett believes that is because of increased theft from motor vehicles.

The rise in the statistic led to the main campaign associated with Suffolk’s National Night Out, “Lock it, don’t lose it.”

“People are still leaving their cars unlocked,” Bennett said. “Please lock your car doors and this number will drop significantly.”

After the meeting, City Council Chambers emptied and people drove off to their respective neighborhoods.

Hundreds of citizens made their way to King’s Fork Middle School to hear the drumline beat of the Mighty Marching Bulldogs, play games on the lawn and enjoy burgers, hotdogs and Subway sandwiches while visiting more than 36 featured vendors.

“One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that we’ve built a reputation as a bigger event,” said Cusi Hamlin, one of the National Night Out Suffolk co-chairs and lead organizer at KFMS. “We’re the biggest National Night Out event in Suffolk, and that’s literally due to everybody coming out of the woodwork and wanting to be part of it.”

Many of the children were at the community mural project brought to the event through a partnership between The Suffolk Art League, Keep Suffolk Beautiful and the SPARC initiative to liven up downtown Suffolk.

“It’s mainly just to build a little excitement and bring the arts downtown,” said Suffolk Art League Executive Director Linda Bunch.

The designs on the 16-by-4-foot mural were based on the Suffolk Police Department’s “Lock It, Don’t Lose It” campaign, along with emergency vehicles painted in bright colors by the young artists.

“The theme of the mural is to say thank you to our emergency services,” said Wayne Jones of Suffolk Litter Control and Keep Suffolk Beautiful. “It fits nicely with the evening,”

The Hilton Garden Inn at Harbour View was alive with guests as they enjoyed their sundae bar and officers danced in the ballroom with the rest of the crowd.

“This is great to bring everyone together in a fun and safe environment,” said Gerri Norman. “I just love the Suffolk Police Department because when I see something and say something they react.”

Families on Pinner Street enjoyed bounce houses, live music, the Library2Go mobile from Suffolk Public Library and more entertainment at the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“It’s absolutely awesome just to see the community come out and share together, and everybody is enjoying each other’s company,” said Sgt. David Miles with the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office. “It’s wonderful.”

The end of the night was seen at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Station 9 in Chuckatuck. Police officers drove around the fire station and joined in on the festivities.

Even Del. Chris Jones had the opportunity to return to his old stomping grounds at the fire station for the occasion.

“Suffolk is off the charts. You are seeing not just city officials, but you’re seeing plenty of volunteers,” Jones said. “It is truly a community.”