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National Night Out is 'all about community'

Organizer says event is fun but educational

August 03, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Aijunette Dickens winces as juggling clubs fly by her as her sister Natalya Dickens watches her. The two were standing in between jugglers Tuesday at National Night Out held at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Throughout Fairgrounds Park Tuesday evening, a unique sound hung in the humid air.

It was a symphony composed by 1,000 people, led by a splash of water layered with youthful squeals, punctuated by crunching chips and popping balloons as the call of prize numbers rose over the melody of conversation.

The din rising from the park was the music of crime prevention as people gathered for National Night Out, said organizer Carolyn Brooks.

A national event aimed at stemming the tide of crime through community-police partnership, awareness and open dialogue, Brooks said she has been orchestrating the event for the last decade.

"It's all about community," she said.

And it's about connecting the men and women in uniforms Tuesday with the people dressed in shorts, T-shirts, jeans and flip-flops to build positive relationships, she said.

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Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said he has felt the impact of National Night Out on the work of his department.

"All you have to do is look at crime statistics from 15 to 20 years ago," he said. "There is no doubt it works."

Police cannot prevent crime alone, he said. They need the community.

"As they say in New York, 'see something, say something,'" Brooks said. "People are becoming more and more aware."

While National Night Out is a fun community event, it is also educational, she said.

About 20 organizations and 25 vendors partnered for the event, she said.

Demonstrations by drug dogs and their handlers, jugglers and Zumba instructors entertained and educated, she said.

"It is informative and a good get-together," said Tara Kelly of Hagerstown.

Kelly said she has been coming to National Night Out for years, and seeing the police mingle with the community helps build trust.

"They have a job to do," she said. "I think it helps that they get out to be among the community."

As the sound began to fade with the sun Tuesday, Brooks said the event might have lasted just two hours, but it was a clear success.

"I give tonight an A+," she said. "This is one of those things you can't do in a vacuum. We depend on the community and we got great support."

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