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Suffolk celebrates National Night Out to strengthen community – police relationships

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jul 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 00:01:28-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - A crime-prevention tradition that started in the early 80s with a simple porch light has grown into a nationwide event known as National Night Out.

Tuesday, August 3 marks the nationally recognized day for National Night Out. It is an evening where everyone joins together to say “NO” to crime and to strengthen their bonds within their communities.

Building trust and stronger relationships with the community is only part of what National Night out is all about.

“A lot of times when we deal with people, we're dealing with the worst days of their life, the most difficult things they've ever had to deal with,” said Suffolk Interim Police Chief Al Chandler. “This is a time for us to be able to show ourselves as human beings as people as friends as neighbors.”

Each year, thousands of neighborhoods across the country take part in the event, that also increases awareness about drug prevention and other anti-crime efforts.

Over 100 communities, homeowner’s associations, civic organizations, neighborhoods, apartment and condominium groups, churches, and business sponsors partnered together this year. Neighborhoods held block parties, cook-outs, and mini-festivals across the city of Suffolk.

Hundreds of people turned up at Suffolk’s National Night Out at King’s Fork High School Tuesday, including first-timer Michelle Leday of Suffolk who remembers the kindness of an officer when she and her family moved to the state two years ago.

“He introduced himself to us and told us a lot about the neighborhood and made us feel so at home,” said Leday.

Police said Suffolk has had three shootings this past week - a microcosm of the surge in gun violence nationwide.

Leday, who was at NNO with her daughter and grandchildren, has noticed the uptick in crime in the city and believes these events help make neighborhoods safer.

I think this event is good because it brings people together from all over, not just the neighborhood, Suffolk; it’s for everyone,” Leday said. “It gives people a chance to meet each other and know each other. I feel that if people can come together from all over, different nationalities, different races, we can all gather here and just get along, say hello and meet new people, opportunities, then it makes it harder for people to commit crimes.”

As neighbors help fight against crime, health officials with Sentara are also continuing their fight against COVID-19. As part of the Obici & Health Fair event, Sentara partnered with several communities to get more shots in arms as the highly contagious Delta variant quickly spreads.

Chesapeake teen, 12-year-old Daniel Ward got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel great, really great.”

With some convincing from his mom, Ward overcome his fear of needles to protect himself against the virus.

“We discussed about getting a shot or not,” said Ward. “I was like no because it would be painful to get it. I know that I just don’t want to get the coronavirus, so I have to get it.”

Leday believes the COVID pandemic has only added to the high crime rate.

“A lot of people are losing everything, I mean, the jobs, business, homes,” Leday said. “Some people just getting so frustrated they take it out on other people and their families, and don't realize, it's hardship for everybody.

Chief Chandler has a warning to criminals – neighborhoods are fighting back.

“We're not going to allow crime to take over our streets,” he said. “We're taking our streets back.”

Related: Portsmouth father killed on National Night Out in 2019 was strong believer in its message, family says

Suffolk’s National Night Out opened with a kick-off event at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chamber at Suffolk City Hall. Suffolk Mayor Mike Duman, City Manager Albert Moor, and Interim Police Chief Al Chandler spoke at the event.

Following the ceremony, tour groups in seven motorcade units ventured out across the City of Suffolk to visit the registered parties and enjoy the NNO fun happening.

National Night Out is designed to:
• Heighten crime, drug and violence prevention awareness;
• Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime efforts;
• Strengthen neighborhood unity and spirit, as well as enhance police - community partnerships;
• Send a message to criminals, letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.