Adults and children came together with first responders in an effort to take a stand against crime at the annual National Night Out on Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
The purpose of the evening is to build trust, strengthen neighborhood watch groups and allow residents to meet with first responders in a relaxed environment, said Susie Powell, Pine Bluff Police Department deputy chief. She deemed the outreach a success based on the number of people who attended.
The outreach effort began as an outgrowth of citizen neighborhood watch groups partnering with law enforcement, Powell said. She said she has been a part of the Pine Bluff event since 1996.
“Neighborhood Watch Groups came together in celebration of trying to prevent crime in their neighborhoods,” Powell said. “It expanded into a citywide effort.”
Looking at the children and adults filling the auditorium, she said that residents help deter crime by knowing their neighbors, observing their surroundings and contacting police if they sense someone suspicious in their neighborhood.
The outreach effort included food, games, bounce houses, a rock climbing wall, a raffle, a concert from the Cummins Prison Band, all of which was free to the public. Law enforcement officers assisted children in playing games, shooting basketballs and seeing the K-9 police dog.
Sammie Littlejohn brought her 5-year-old godson Zamarion McDonald to the event. She waited in line at a demonstration in which Army National Guard soldiers helped children take a seat behind the wheel of an LHS vehicle.
“I wanted him to have fun before it is time for school,” Littlejohn said.
Donna Bradley said she brought her sons Davion Collier, 13, and Brayden Bradley, who enjoyed the games. She said she supports the police department’s partnerships with citizens to prevent crime.
“I think this is a great thing,” she said. “If we have more neighborhood watch groups, I think Pine Bluff will have less crime.”
Stacey Williams said she came with 15 relatives to be part of the community and said the availability of free bus transportation helped increase the turnout. She said she feels safe for the most part in Pine Bluff, although she wishes the crime rate were lower.
“We appreciate what the police department is doing for this community,” she said. “This is a great idea to draw people together. The police should keep doing what they’re doing.”
MaryJo and Bubba McCord smiled as they made their way across the auditorium. The couple belongs to a a neighborhood watch group in Dollarway.
“I think the chief (Jeffery Hubanks) is doing a great job,” MaryJo McCord said. “Our neighborhood used to be really bad with a lot of crime. The neighborhood watch group makes a positive difference. We have to get more young people involved.”
National Night Out began in 1984 in an effort for citizens and law enforcement officers to take a stand against crime. The outreach partnership includes cities in every state, according to the National Association of Town Watch organization’s website.