Some neighborhood streets will shutdown, food has been prepared and music might get loud as thousands of residents gather for the 35th Anniversary of the National Night Out when law enforcement gets a chance to meet residents who want safe communities.
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. Tuesday as law enforcement personnel depart from the Columbus Civic Center in 10 convoys to visit 32 Neighborhood Watch communities across the city. Phenix City officers will start their neighborhood visits from the North Precinct at 4301 Park Drive and the South Precinct, 1507 Fifth St. South.
Columbus Police Sgt. Donald Bush, who works in the Community Relations and Crime Prevention Unit, said it’s the 18th year the department has made visits to communities to support crime-fighting efforts.
“First of all, it’s our super bowl of crime reduction in this city,” he said. “The objective, of course, is for us to have the Neighborhood Watch and safety in our communities. We are serious about having a reduction in crime in communities where we are working, playing or living.”
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Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada, the event has grown since it started in 1984 with 2.5 million people turning on their porch lights in 400 communities in 23 states and sitting outside of their home. In 2016, 38 million residents took part in the event in 16,000 communities across the United States.
While residents will meet officers who patrol neighborhoods, Bush said it also gives residents a chance to meet their neighbors.
“Some people don’t see their neighbors at all,” he said. “That is one of the ways they can get together. They say now I know you. I didn’t know you lived in that house.”
The Rev. Willie Phillips of Winterfield on the Move Against Drugs said there is no time off in fighting crime.
“It got pretty good over here one while,” he said. “Then it just started up again. You got to stay on top of it.”
A supporter of law enforcement and efforts to fight drugs, break-ins and other crimes in the community, he recalled how he has faced threats from opposition.
“Folks are so afraid they won’t say nothing,” he said Sunday from his home on Lumpkin Court. “I hear gunshots in the neighborhood. Old people are not going to say nothing.”
Phillips said criminals want to keep people afraid. He has installed a surveillance camera at his home to help identify criminal activity.
“You’ve got to have some proof,” he said.
On Tuesday, Phillips said he will join volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club of the Chattahoochee Valley at 3200 Cusseta Road for food, fun and fellowship. There will be plenty of barbecue, hot dogs and 100 free book bags for children returning to school on Wednesday.
“We are getting everything ready,” he said.