‘We can help keep each other safe’

Night out puts spotlight on crime
Aug. 06, 2014 @ 04:20 PM

Hundreds of people took to Breckenridge Street on Tuesday night to stand up against crime in the community and nationwide.

Vance County participated in the National Night Out — an effort to rally communities to combat crime.

Superintendent Ronald Gregory, who spoke at the start of the event, said community safety should be everyone’s responsibility.

“This is a time for our community to recognize we can help keep each other safe,” he said. “We have to make sure we allow our children the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment.”

Vance Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson encouraged people to visit all the booths set up along Breckenridge and emphasized the importance of residents watching out for one another.

“We need to have community watch organizations in every neighborhood in Vance County,” he said. “They are the eyes and ears for law enforcement.”

The first national Night Out event took place Aug. 7, 1984, and drew more than 2 million people.

National Night Out now involves more than 37.8 million people and 16,124 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide.

At least 1,000 hot dogs were also available at the event, as well as free T-shirts and cool drinks.

Dozens of vendors came out to speak with residents about ways to combat gangs, property theft and violent crime.

Tonnesha Marshall, a Henderson resident, discovered National Night Out for the first time Tuesday as she was heading out of the Perry Memorial library, which is situated in midst of the event.

“This is something positive for our kids, and we need more things like it,” she said. “If the young people have something to do, they won’t all be drawn to crime.”

According to federal crime statistics, Henderson’s violent crime rate has fallen in the past few years.

In 2008, there were 204 total reported incidents of violent crime in Henderson.

In 2011, the total number of reported violent crimes was 165.

Still, the number of reported murders in 2008 was three — compared to seven in 2011.

Henderson Police Department officials have said more people reporting crime, in part because of the focus on community policing.

But some residents don’t see the impact of a decreasing crime rate on a daily basis.

Marcus Williams, a 19-year-old from Henderson, said he recently lost a close friend to gun violence.

“People are still getting killed here all the time,” he said. “I don’t think it’s getting better.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.