(Lafayette) Imagine a nation-wide partnership between the community and law enforcement. It sounds like a fairy tale, but for the first Tuesday in August, it transforms into a true story. National Night Out, a yearly awareness-raising effort, brings citizens and police together.
Music, dancing, free food and fun jumps kept spirits alive during Lafayette’s National Night Out. While there were plenty of fun moments, the event was more than games and line dancing. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft described the event as an opportunity for interaction on a personal level.
No fear or intimidation. No name-calling or disrespect. The night was about learning how to become of aware and what things are needed to enhance neighborhood safety. In Girard Park, a more formal event was held, accompanied with a fire department smoke house, mounted patrols, McGruff the Crime Dog and a visit from U.S Attorney, Stephanie Finley.
Across town, at the MLK Center, a strictly citizen-driven event took place. Spiritual dances, encouraging speeches with officers from the LPD present to answer any questions from the community. Differences aside, both events had one commonality; encouragement.
“We want to encourage everyone to practice safe habits at all times. Keep your houses secure and your vehicles secure. One of the big things we ask people to do on this night is to turn on your porch light as a method to support what we are trying to do here and that’s to prevent crime,“ said Craft
Police also encouraged citizens to ask questions. What are the steps to starting a neighborhood watch? How effective are security monitoring systems? What actions need to be taken when a small house fire quickly turns into a smoke-filled nightmare? As the night wound down, an obvious question lingered in the early night air. What can be done when National Night Out is over?
Finley said, “Keep engaged. Keep in touch with neighborhood watches. Keep in touch with law enforcement if they have any concern. Give a call, whether it’s the chief, the sheriff or my office. Just keep involved. This is our community. All of us live here and want to see it prosper and want to see these children safe and see the community secure.”
(Opelousas) Community leaders and law enforcement joined with residents in the city of Opelousas in a team effort to address the rise in crime in the city for National Night Out.
“This our third year and it’s done all over the world at the same time on the same day,” said Tyrone Glover, organizer of National Night Out in Opelousas. Opelousas Police Chief Perry Gallow said he hopes this builds trust between the community and law enforcement.
“We want to make sure that the people in our community understand that law enforcement is here to work alongside with you. There’s no us against them this is about a united front,” said Gallow.
Opelousas resident John Guilbeaux feels that education also plays an important role in doing away with crime.
“This is our city and it belongs to the community and violence with violence is getting nowhere. It’s time for them to start understanding that education is the key,” said Guilbeaux.
Opelousas Mayor Donald Cravins agrees.
“As parents we try so hard to make and create a better environment for our children. We are not doing enough by sitting idle and saying where the school is failing this year, but next year it’s going to improve. How long is long enough,” said Cravins.
Opelousas Police Chief Perry Gallow said the community is the eyes and ears of the city.
“We’ve had some violent crime here, but the solving of those crimes is because of the trust that the public has in the police department in providing information,” said Gallow.