National Night Out: Local law enforcement meets with community during annual event
By SCOTT HAWKINS and SABRINA SIMMS
NATCHEZ — Georganna Berry is a member of the Vidalia Beautification Committee and a member of the Vidalia Police Department as a triad officer serving the elderly.
Her dual role put her in the unique position Tuesday of being a volunteer serving hotdogs and refreshments to members of the community during Vidalia’s National Night Out event manned by volunteers of the Vidalia Beautification Committee and sponsored by alderwoman and beautification committee member Sabrina Dore’s Shelter Insurance business.
“I knew she (Dore) needed help giving out food,” Berry said. “So I decided to help. This is an important event in the community, and I help where I’m needed.”
National Night Out is a community-building campaign that promotes partnerships between law enforcement and communities to make people safer and that was the purpose of several Night Out events held throughout the Miss-Lou on Tuesday night, featuring food, music, games and drinks.
“My dad was a law enforcement officer,” Dore said. “He was a state trooper and then he was sheriff of Concordia Parish.”
Dore said she believes Night Out events are important because law enforcement officers serve important roles in the community but officers also are members of the community.
“Events like this let people know them,” Dore said, “and they can wave at them when they see them at the grocery store.”
Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill said the Vidalia Police Department participates in National Night Out events every year.
“It’s good to get the community involved,” Merrill said. “Interact with them and let them meet and greet the officers. It is always good to be as involved in the community as you can and get to know people more on a personal level and not always on a serious note.”
In Natchez, the city organized a big event on the bluff featuring food, music and a bounce house.
“This is a first for us,” said Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong, standing next to a tent on the bluff where people were grilling hotdogs and visiting. “In the past, we’ve gone to neighborhoods. This year we want folks to come out and meet their neighbors. The whole idea is to get people out of their homes and meet new neighbors, new residents, not just in their neighborhoods, but other neighbors.”
Armstrong said he believes Natchez Police Department officers are building better relationships with people in the community and that it is important for residents to feel comfortable sharing information on crimes and potential crimes with law enforcement in order to keep the community safe.
“Events like this strengthen that relationship with the community,” Armstrong said. “We wanted to make it convenient for people who are working. We’re cooking for them.”
Adam Chapman, a member of the Montebello Neighborhood Watch Committee, brought their group to the bluff Tuesday night where they set up a tent and chairs around a table with refreshments.
“We support the police department any way we can,” Chapman said. “We want the city to give them raises.”
Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office toured events throughout Adams County, starting at Selma Estates at 5:30 p.m with stops at Broadmoor Subdivision, Providence ballpark, Kingston and Woodlawn neighborhoods.
“I know there have been a lot of shootings and violence going on, but I need everyone here to understand that we live and breathe Adams County,” Patten told the crowd at the Kingston Community Center National Night Out event. “That means that we’re going to do our best … to put those (offenders) away. In order to do that, we need your eyes and ears as well. … Without the public’s support, there’s no way we could do what we do.”
Armstrong also made the rounds to several neighborhood watch group events Tuesday night. He eventually returned to give closing remarks at the event on the bluff where members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office had converged minutes before the 9 p.m. close en masse with lights flashing and sirens blaring.