Houston & Peach

Night Out has grown, changed

When the first National Night Out was held, the hallmarks of the event were front porch vigils and outside lights glowing throughout the night.

While some communities still incorporate that tradition to draw attention to community watch programs and police-community partnerships, the event has expanded through the years to include a host of activities — from cookouts to block parties to festivals.

Tonight’s 26th annual event is no exception.

In Centerville, city police are partnering with Target, located at 2929 Watson Boulevard, to host a free, family-friendly event from 6 to 9 p.m.

“It’s important as a community outreach,” said Centerville Police Chief Anthony B. Cooper.

Police officers and firefighters will be on hand to talk with parents and kids about crime and drug prevention, share what they do as public servants and answer questions about their jobs. Fire trucks and police vehicles, including bicycles from the bike patrol, will be on display.

“It’s a good opportunity for youngsters,” said Cooper, who noted that the event coincides with the first day of school in Houston County.

Activities include face painting, sidewalk art and live entertainment. Snacks will be available.

“We are committed to being good community partners,” said Lauren Barnett, executive team leader for assets protection at Target in Warner Robins, in a news release. “That means getting involved with local organizations and offering our support.”

In Macon, Downtown Macon City Watch is partnering with Macon Regional CrimeStoppers to host an event at the top level of the parking garage at 475 Poplar St. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m., after a rally at City Hall at 5:30 p.m.

At the CrimeStoppers event, people can bring picnic baskets and enjoy live music by Jowin and Al King. There also will be face-painting and other activities for kids. The event is free and parking is available on the first two levels of the garage.

There also will be an announcement about Project 365, an initiative organized by City Watch to remove graffiti in downtown.

“We really want the community to know, especially those who are involved in crime and drug use, that we care about our city and are committed to eliminating crime,” said Patrick McCon-nell, coordinator of City Watch, in a news release. “This will also be an opportunity for business owners and residents to learn more and become involved in City Watch.”

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office will host an event at the East Substation on Jeffersonville Road and Mogul Road. The event will feature burgers, hot dogs and live gospel music by The Feltons. Sheriff Jerry Modena and other officials from the Sheriff’s Office will meet with the public.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free.

Residents in the Lake Arrowhead area of east Macon will gather in front of the lake on Lake Arrowhead Drive from 6-9 p.m., said Sandra Shakespeare, coordinator of the Neighborhood Watch program in the area. The evening will include crime prevention and anti-drug information as well as medical screenings, prizes, games and school supplies. The session drew about 150 people last year, she said.

The National Night Out program was developed by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit crime-prevention organization that works with crime watch groups and law enforcement agencies across the country.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.