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West Point holds community-building campaign

WEST POINT — By midafternoon on Tuesday, it looked like a summer thunderstorm might wash out a National Night Out program that had been planned for 6:30 p.m. at John Hoggs Park. A storm appeared imminent but thankfully did not materialize, and the block-party style event proceeded as planned.

National Night Out is a community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make local neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out is intended to enhance the relationship between neighbors and public safety while bringing back a true sense of community.

Police Chief Donald Britt saw the event as an ideal means of promoting community policing.

“We want people from the community to visit with us and to get to know our officers,” he said. “We especially like to meet kids. We want them to learn at an early age that we are here to protect and serve.”

“We like meeting the public at these kinds of events,” said GBI agent Daniella Stuart of the Columbus office. “We serve 13 counties including Troup.”

Stuart is one of two crime scene specialists in the Columbus office. There’s also six field agents and two supervisors in the office. At a table underneath a tent that was set up, Stuart talked to people about the procedure of fingerprinting.

At the Point University tent, Jennifer Marquart talked about Point’s community outreach.

“We are proud to be a part of the community,” she said, “and we want to know what the citizens would like for us to do.”

West Point police officers Caine Longshore, Quallan Perrigen and Arnel Fernandez met with the public and answered their questions about police work. Debbie Thompson and Barbara Payne, block captains for the Booker Hills neighborhood, gave away slices of watermelon and talked to people about the Neighborhood Watch program. The Historic Fort Tyler/Waterworks neighborhood had a big delegation meeting the public and talking about the community. They included Dianne Davidson, Rev. Walter Darden, Catherine Darden, Trudye Johnson, Mary Shealey, Dot Billingslea, Gloria Marshall, and Vivian Heard.

“I’m glad the rain held off,” said Billy Williams. “This has been a good event. It gives people the chance to know who their policemen are. We’ve been involved in Neighborhood Watch for a long time. It’s a really good organization.”

A community-police awareness raising event in the U.S. National Night Out annually takes place on the first Tuesday in August. Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the U.S. and Canada, National Night Out has been held annually since 1984. The first National Night Out involved an estimated 2.5 million residents across 400 communities in 23 states. That number has since grown to 38 million residents in 16,000 communities in the U.S.

The event is meant to increase awareness about police programs such as town watch, neighborhood watch and other anti-crime efforts.