2010 National Night Out
"Nat'l. Night Out" attracts, empowers hundreds
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – A community that is united and aware of their resources is better able to fight back against crime. To that end the 27th annual "National Night Out" crime and drug prevention event took place at Memorial Park Funeral Home Tuesday afternoon on Riverside Drive in Gainesville.
Brian Dean, Manager of the Target Store in Gainesville and one of the event sponsors, said, "That’s part of what tonight is about; getting the community together and creating a general awareness (of those resources)."
"National Night Out" is part of a nationwide program known as "America’s Night Out Against Crime", taking place at over 15,000 venues in all 50 states. Over 37 million people are expected to participate in this year’s awareness-raising and crime-fighting event.
The fourfold purpose for this year’s event is to: (1) heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, (2) generate support for and participation in anticrime efforts, (3) strengthen neighborhood and police-community partnerships, and (4) send the message to criminals that neighborhoods are organizing and fighting back.
Billy Hendrix of event-host Memorial Park said, "We’ve been doing this for five years, and each year it gets bigger and bigger. The community is coming out and finding out about the resources available to them, and taking lots of tips safety tips back home."
Expecting five to six hundred attendees at tonight’s gathering, at least half of those in attendance were of high school age or less.
Elijah Blake Roper of Gainesville, 13, says that he hopes to be a police officer when he becomes an adult. "Being a crime scene investigator would be cool!" Roper volunteered.
Portia Crawford is one the other side of the age spectrum. Asking that her real age not be given, Ms. Crawford, formerly of Kalamazoo, Michigan, says that people in her age bracket are very vulnerable to becoming crime victims, particularly when it comes to investment scams. Being on a fixed income makes such losses particularly difficult to weather.
Several safety seminars were presented inside, taking advantage of the funeral home’s air-conditioned comfort. Those lectures covered the topics of preventing accidental injury, using the "9-1-1" system effectively, fire prevention, and creating a neighborhood watch program. Experts in each of those areas offered valuable advice and explained resources available.
Outside the myriad of youngsters enjoyed touring several fire trucks, a med-evac helicopter, the Hall County Dive team boat, and a S.W.A.T. team vehicle replete with body armor and tear gas launcher.
Adults were afforded the opportunity of driving a golf cart through a pylon-marked course while wearing goggles that simulated driving under the influence. The only interruption to that sometimes humorous, but eye-opening experience was for the landing of a second life-flight helicopter, an event that had both young and old watching with excitement.
Free pizza was provided by nearby Little Italy and smoothies by McDonalds. All-in-all, a great way to have family fun while learning to take some of the bite out of crime.
2010 Photo slideshow