Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Citywide parties seek to unite citizens, police against crime

By KATE HOWARD • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • August 5, 2008 Post a CommentRecommend Print this page E-mail this article Share this article: Del.icio.us Facebook Digg Reddit Newsvine What’s this? Communities across Nashville and the nation will be taking to the streets tonight in a show of force against crime. It's the 25th annual National Night Out Against Crime, and the 14th year Nashvillians have taken part with block parties around the city. There are 45 parties planned in Nashville alone, sponsored by community groups and neighborhood watches hoping to foster a better sense of togetherness — with one another and the police. "It's a good opportunity for people in the community to network, so to speak, with the police, fire department and merchants in the area as well," said Marty Lang, vice president of the Dickerson Road Merchants Association and a sponsor of the celebration today at 4 p.m. at Shwab Elementary School. "The most important thing is giving people and their kids the opportunity to meet the police and realize they're the good guys." The Shwab event, the unofficial kickoff and one of the city's largest, may see up to 1,200 people stop by for food, children's games and camaraderie. Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said the department will be represented at each of the events, with patrol officers, commanders and recruiters making appearances, as well as departments like the mounted patrol and aviation. "This is an opportunity for the neighborhoods of Nashville and the police to come together and celebrate that we're making great strides in reducing crime," said Serpas, who will attend at least two events tonight. "But even though we're well into our fifth year of crime reduction, not everyone has felt that reduction yet." One neighborhood that Serpas and community leaders say is better than its reputation is using the night to bring attention to a movement against teen violence. Antioch leaders are holding a "Fed Up" march, ending with a rally in the Hickory Hollow Mall parking lot. "We want to bring the entire Antioch community to fellowship as one, and also let Nashville and the community know that they are fed up about this silliness, these crimes, and also recognize what some of the causes are," said Darrell Walker, overseer of the children and youth ministry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The Hickory Hollow event will be heavy on participation from service agencies, offering help to parents struggling to reign in their teenagers, and entertainment to bring families together. Walker hopes it will give purpose to those in need of assistance and serve as a positive example that Antioch is making changes. If nothing else, the community gathering is a means for the city to speak in one voice that crime is not welcome , Serpas said. "The social underpinning of reduced crime is active neighborhoods," Serpas said. "The criminals will find someplace else to go. We can control our streets together." Contact Kate Howard at 615-726-8968 or kahoward@tennessean.com.

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