EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWS"Night Out" Brings Charleston Neighbors Together
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Videographer: Bill Oldani
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Aug. 6, 2013 10:21 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 6, 2013 10:56 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
It's a night to celebrate community, and send a message to criminals that neighbors are watching out for them and one another. Tuesday marked Charleston's 30th "National Night Out," an opportunity for first responders to keep communication open with the public.
Most people won't hesitate to call 911 for help in an emergency, but National Night Out is a reminder that police and other first responders don't want that to be the only time you reach out to them.
From police officers, to prosecutors, and pastors National Night Out is all about bringing the community together. Those gathered on Charleston's west side Tuesday evening say its a welcome sight, knowing the struggles the area has seen.
"There's been a lot of crime here on the west side, and when that happens--people stay in their homes and don't say anything when something happens," said
But with the sizzle of barbecue, some rock climbing for kids, and just good conversation, community gatherings like Night Out are helping fight back.
"This is what it's all about. This is the way you have true long-lasting crime prevention, is having community involvement, people out on their porches, mingling about. That's what drives crime away," said US Attorney Booth Goodwin.
But Bishop Jones says there's one big obstacle in getting people to speak up.
"The fear factor. But community activities like this do eliminate and minimize that fear, and you feel comfortable with that to talk out and speak whenever you see something irregular," Jones said.
Police agree, saying such gatherings are a critical connection point to remind the community it's okay to come forward, and that officers want to work with you to keep the community safe.
"We're just making sure those lines of communication are open," said Cpl. Errol Randle with the Charleston Police Department.
Part of the community resources offered at National Night Out focused on keeping kids safe, with fingerprint cards kids could take home.
It's all helping convey the message that police don't want to make arrests. They want to make friends--neighbors watching for crime. It's a message that seems to already be setting in.
"I want to help police officers, and keep an eye out," said nine-year-old Kayla Fortune of Charleston.
Police say Charleston does have some strong neighborhood watch programs, but there's still room for improvement. They hope "Night Out" will encourage families to take a more active role in getting to know their neighbors---a tool to prevent crime before it ever starts.
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