NATIONAL NIGHT OUT: Meeting neighbors, preventing crime focus of yearly event
Hundreds of Sanford and Lee County residents were out and about Tuesday night to meet their neighbors and learn how to prevent crime in their communities.
There were more than 50 site locations throughout the city and county for National Night Out — a nation-wide event meant to spur conversations about crime prevention.
Ricky Tysor, coordinator for the Walter McNeil Park site, said he expects more than 200 people to attend his National Night Out site throughout the event. The park featured games, playground equipment for children, a school supply drive, food and dancing, along with at least one speaker who intended to reach out to young adults about employment and higher education opportunities.
"I hope we all get around here and have a good time," he said. "It's a good time to get to know each other."
Frazier Davis, the co-coordinator at the site, said there needs to be more opportunities for neighborhoods to gather during tough times.
"We need to find ways to come together," he said. "Instead of trying to separate one another."
In the Woodbridge Forest-Cliff neighborhood, coordinator Rachel Ellis was busy taking pictures as children climbed inside a Sanford Fire Department truck.
"This is our second one and I really enjoyed it," Ellis said.
Families ate snow cones, hot dogs and chili before climbing into the subdivision pool or playing basketball.
Sanford Fire Capt. Tim Smith said his crew would visit four different sites and that it's important for children to be familiar with fire and police personnel. Sometimes children can be scared of firefighters and, events like these, help eliminate some of those fears.
"We try and let them know we are regular people," he said. "National Night Out is just a good time and it's a beautiful night to have it."
Carmella Carley has lived in the subdivision for more than 20 years and said she enjoys the friendly atmosphere.
"To me, it's a great thing," she said. "You get to see neighbors you haven't seen in a while and that means a lot."
Sarah Jefferson, coordinator of the Chestnut AME Zion Church site, said they usually have a variety of law enforcement personnel and area residents who participate each year.
"It's important to know their neighbors and learn who each other are," she said. "I hope it improves relations with local law enforcement and it's a really good function to have."
Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said National Night Out was always a positive event that brought various sects of the community together.
"It really prevents crime because it gets people comfortable with law enforcement," he said. "They are more likely to call us if they need help or see a crime."
Amy Ellis, site manager for Summerfield Apartments, had a superhero theme Tuesday and encouraged neighborhood children to dress up like superheroes.
"We have a lot of games," she said. "We've made it all about the kids. We need come together as a community."
Stefany Lopez, 12, and Mayanin Castaneda, 12, said they really enjoyed the event and were having fun.
"It's a good time to come out and celebrate National Night Out," Lopez said.