August 6, 2008

A Friendly Night Out on the Town

By Ryan Seals, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

Aug. 6--Annette Allred and Gwen Pritchett had plenty to discuss Tuesday night.

As the hamburgers and hot dogs smoked on the grill nearby, the Ole Asheboro neighborhood residents were busy firing away at the many crime issues plaguing their area.

"Guys are selling drugs in broad daylight, and you are afraid to walk out the door," Allred said as she lounged in her folding chair. "The children can't get in to use the parks because of drug activity."

They are also concerned about homeless people sleeping in the woods, the repeated theft of copper wiring from air conditioning units at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church and the nuisance of loud boom boxes that thump late into the night.

"Our neighborhood organization is trying to put an end to all of the crime, but it's hard to keep up," Pritchett said.

Similar conversations were going on in neighborhoods across the city as residents took part in the 25th annual National Night Out -- designed to unite neighbors with each another and with law enforcement, fire and other emergency officials.

The event primarily focuses on crime and drug prevention and strengthening police-community partnerships, but also extends to safety awareness.

It's a celebration of sorts, with cookouts, block parties, parades and various youth programs aimed at bridging the gap between those who protect and serve and the residents who trust them to do so.

"It's showing us in a different perspective than when we are going around arresting people," said Officer N.L. Altizer while flipping burgers on a grill at the entrance of Ray Warren Homes. "It gives people a chance to talk to us and for us to give them a better insight into what we do."

For Jessica Reichard, president of the Ray Warren neighborhood organization, it was a chance to bring residents together.

"We are hoping that the free food will bring people out to have some fun," Reichard said. "I've met a lot of folks for the first time today."

Children at the Amesbury on West Market apartment complex got a chance to sit in a fire engine and got free coloring books and magnets, courtesy of the crew of Greensboro Fire Engine No. 52.

"We're here to educate kids on fire safety and prevention," said Greensboro fire Capt. Curtis Brown as his crew taught children how to properly use 911.

"Our main objective is to let the kids and adults know about what services we provide while having a good time and creating fellowship," he said. "We hope we only have to come here to events like this instead of in times of need."

Contact Ryan Seals at 373-7077 or [email protected]


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