08/05/09 — City officers, citizens take bite out of crime

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City officers, citizens take bite out of crime

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 5, 2009 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro Police Officer James Rodgers, left, talks with Makenya Matthews, right, Joshua Williams, Anthony Brown and Isaac Rodgers, in the police car, about the work he does as a police officer during the National Night Out held at Herman Park Tuesday.

When Marcella Rodriguez, 23, died as the result of domestic abuse, Deborah Carter felt like she was losing a family member.

Ms. Carter was manning a booth for Wayne Uplift at National Night Out, an annual gathering in Herman Park that seeks to raise crime awareness and to unite neighborhoods.

The event drew crowds estimated in the thousands on Tuesday evening, seeking information, fellowship, free food and entertainment.

But there were more serious matters afoot as well, as Ms. Carter and Danielle Stevens of the Wayne Uplift Domestic Violence Program explained.

Under large letters reading "Does your partner," people who read the display were encouraged to ask themselves questions:

"Does your partner: Blame you for his or her mistakes? Try to make you feel worthless or helpless? Forbid or prevent you from working or going to school?"

Ms. Carter said those questions become especially important in an abusive relationship, because such problems usually escalate.

"I just want people to be aware of what domestic abuse is -- it's not just the physical, it's the emotional," Ms. Carter said. "They need to be aware that there's a pattern -- the honeymoon stage, then the nagging starts, and then the blow up happens, and in the long run, this time span keeps getting shorter."

In the case of Marcella Rodriguez, Ms. Carter said she had been away from the abusive relationship for six months, until her former boyfriend "dangled a carrot."

"He said, 'I'll sign the car over, and that was his moment," Ms. Carter said. "We're so close, with our victims, we're very close with the women. So it's like losing part of your family."

Many of the people at Herman Park Tuesday said they weren't really sure what National Night Out was, but all said they were enjoying themselves.

For Tiara Underwood, 12, a Dillard Middle School student, her participation in A Drummer's World Drum Line performance was the best part of the evening.

"It's fun!" said Tiara, who plays the snare. She also plays the flute, and the two instruments have complimented one another, she said.

"It helped me out in band class at school, because I didn't know how to read music," Tiara said.

Alando Mitchell, who organizes the drum line in addition to her job as director of mentoring for the Goldsboro Family YMCA, said children get a positive experience in the drum line.

"Kids are looking to be part of something positive -- or really, they're looking to be a part of something," Mitchell said.

Marcus Lewis and J.P. Combs, two 18-year-old members of the Goldsboro Police Explorers' Club, said they were enjoying their volunteering duties.

Explorers help with traffic control and other parts of the National Night Out event.

Lewis, who has been an Explorer for about two years, said the group's information booth had been a success.

"This is just bringing the communities together, having a good time," Lewis said.

Carolyn Kinsey of Goldsboro said this was her first time at the event, and she did not understand exactly what it was about.

However, it was easy to enjoy "the crowd, and the SWAT Team, and the helicopters -- there's a lot of things going on that I've missed out on for a few years," Ms. Kinsey said.

Her friend Mary Graham sat next to her on a picnic bench, both of them enjoying hot dogs served by Harvest Fellowship Church.

Ms. Graham said she was well-aware of the event's purpose.

"Trying to get the neighbors to get together, and try to cut down on a lot of this crime, that's a good thing," Ms. Graham said.

Her own neighborhood on Ben Brewington Court is fairly quiet, although she suffered a break-in when she first moved in about nine years ago, Ms. Graham said.

Other crime incidents she has read about scare her, however, Ms. Graham said.