LUMBERTON — Hundreds of Robeson County residents came together Tuesday night to build positive relationships with local law enforcement.
“I look forward to it every year because I like to give back to the community,” said Lumberton police Sgt. Shawn Byrd, the organizer of Lumberton’s National Night Out. “It gives them an opportunity to interact with us in a positive way.”
National Night Out is an event held across the United States on the first Tuesday in August. The event was observed locally in Lumberton, Red Springs, Maxton and Fairmont.
According to the event website, more that 16,000 communities participate in the event each year. National Night Out aims to bring communities together with law enforcement to create a positive relationship so that more people will report crimes to keep their neighborhoods safe. This year’s event come when tensions are high across the country between some police and the people they serve.
According to Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill, residents who don’t attend the event are supposed to turn their porch light on to let criminals know that the home “is not a home to be broken into.” He said that if neighbors know neighbors and police officers, more crime will be reported.
“Really what we’re trying to do is tell the criminal element that we’re sick of all of this crime,” he said.
The Lumberton Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association served up hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream at the event, which began at 6 p.m. According to the president of the association, Evelyn Kivette, this was the first year that the association has gotten involved with National Night Out.
The previous president of the alumni association, Faith Blackmon, said that the event was an opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy a night out.
The event also featured a DJ. Janie Williams, a teenager who attended the event, said that she was going to dance all night — and that she did.
“I like the city having a fellowship to support what’s right for the city,” another teen attendee, Lauren Parker, said.
The event also featured emergency vehicle displays, a smoke house, a water slide and local face-painter, Diannee Hunt.
“I don’t have children, so it’s an opportunity to be with children,” the 20-year veteran face painter said. “I enjoy it, that’s why I do it.”
Red Springs kicked off its National Night Out at about 6:30 p.m. following an invocation and performance of the Star Spangled Banner by the 82nd Airborne Band.
Some of the kid-friendly activities offered around the baseball diamond at Tom Cope Park included a water slide and bouncy house. Children also got the chance to meet the crime-fighting dogs of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and check out some of the vehicles used by county and town law enforcement.
Red Springs police Sgt. Tammy Lowery explained the purpose of the event to the more than 100 people in attendance.
“As times change, people change,” she said. “The old generation treated neighbors like family. Now, more than half of Americans couldn’t even pick their neighbors out of a police lineup. It’s a simple step to build our community.”
Lowery later asked children to raise their hands if they did not know their neighbors. She gave each child who did a package of chocolate chip cookie dough and instructed them to go home, bake a sheet of cookies and offer them to their neighbor as a friendly gesture to help break the ice.
Fairmont’s event included an honor guard march and a greeting from Police Chief Kim Monroe. Crowds were treated to performances by the band Recovery and the Southern Sapphires Dance Group. Attendees were able to enjoy a bouncy house, slide, train ride, giveaways, prizes, and displays of emergency vehicles, classic cars and motorcycles.
Maxton’s event at Beachum Park featured free food, face-painting, a gaming truck, bouncy house, dunking booth and music from DJ Unique.