A stand against crime
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 4, 2010 1:46 PM
Sitting in his stroller, 17-month-old Jaden Ide's eyes darted back and forth between his parents to see which one would have the next pinch of pizza for him.
He was not distracted by the din and crush of a crowd estimated to be well in excess of 1,000 people packed into Herman Park Tuesday night for the 27th annual National Night Out.
It was an evening of free food, drinks and entertainment with a purpose -- to allow the community to show its support of law enforcement and vice versa.
The more than 30 vendors included agencies that provide a wealth of information and resources for residents. Others provided the free food and drinks.
"This is our third year," said Jaden's mom, Jai Ide, as she fed him small pieces of pizza. "I like coming together with the community. I like the resources that you find out about. We, of course, like the food. You just have a wealth of information by the time you go home and now that we have a little one, we just take advantage of all the resources that we see out here."
And that includes the child identification program, she said.
But for Jaden, it is still all about the meet and greet -- and the pizza, tents and balloons.
"We like having him out, too, it is a family place," his mom said.
The annual event wasn't scheduled to start until 6 p.m., but people were arriving shortly after 5 p.m. It lasted until 9 p.m.
Lines formed for free pizza, ice cream, hot dogs and even cotton candy.
The Harvest Fellowship Church booth was a popular stop as three lines formed for free hot dogs.
"This is our 10th year here and we serve hot dogs, talk to the people and have a good time, support the community. It is a good thing," said John Durnford, director of the Manna House Food Bank.
Last year, the church, which is located on West Walnut Street, prepared 1,500 hot dogs. Members brought 1,600 this year.
"That is our trademark for National Night Out," Durnford said. "We get a good group that supports it and has a good time here. It's one of our special times, and we have a good time doing it.
"This is community action and it is important to support law enforcement and the job they are doing. We appreciate the job they are doing. We feel like we need to give back and that is why we support them."
Cpl. Marissa Davis and Cpl. Robbie Jones of the Goldsboro Police Department Crime Prevention Unit worked with the community putting the celebration together along with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and Goldsboro Housing Authority.
Planning started at the end of last year's event when people were already calling wanting to be a part of the event, Cpl. Davis said.
"(The crowd) looks great," she said. "I am thankful it is a little cooler this year. The crowd is large. I don't know how many people are here, but it is a lot of people. There is music, dancers, hot air balloon and a lot of informational booths that people can use as a resource.
"You may not know about that booth. Like Wayne Uplift. You may not know about them or where they are located, but now tonight they are all centrally located in one place and you can go around and find out any information that you like."
Cpl. Davis said at least 30 vendors participated.
"(Participation) is very important," she said. "We need to know that our neighborhoods are together. We need block captains in our communities to start Neighborhood Watches to let criminals know our neighborhoods are together and that we are fighting back. If we see something suspicious, we are going to call 911.
"We are going to let people know, don't come to our neighborhoods and cause any problem because we are here and watching out for each other. We are our brother's keepers in relation to our neighborhoods."
She noted that the crowd consisted of all ages and a mix of the black and white communities.
"That is what we wanted," she said. "This is how it should be. This is how it is in our neighborhoods. It should be like this everywhere that we go."
Mayor Al King said he was pleased that he did not have to admonish a no-show public about a low turnout.
"You know the police officers are going to do their job, but I do think it is important for the community to come out and show its support. Law enforcement, anyone who gets a badge, a gun, the car with the blue light, they have a lot of authority, a lot of responsibility. A lot of people are out there who are going to give them a hard time even when they are trying to do their job."
Law enforcement does a "fantastic job," he said.
"I think (the public) really is beginning to get the message," he said. "They understand the value of this. I was surprised when I drove up and saw all of the different tents going up. It is an indication our community is coming out and showing its support."
Former Goldsboro police officer Stephanie Yvette Sutton, the keynote speaker for the event, spoke of how she had helped look after her late brother, a victim of cerebral palsy. He died in 2004 and Tuesday would have been his 47th birthday.
She used her time to urge the audience not only to be their brother's keeper but to look out for each other.
She also spoke of witnessing a cousin becoming a victim of domestic abuse, just as she did, too. Ms. Sutton wrote a book about her experiences, called "To Die is Gain."
Sheriff Carey Winders and Police Chief Tim Bell shared a common message of thanking the public for participating and supporting National Night Out.
"It is a time for people to come together, fellowship and join in unity with law enforcement to help fight crime to keep our communities safe," Winders said.
Both Winders and Bell said law enforcement needs the public to act as its eyes and ears to help fight crime.