FLORENCE, S.C. – The 36th annual National Night Out was celebrated on the evening of Aug. 6 in Florence County by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and the Florence Police Department at various locations.
On the first Tuesday of August, neighborhoods in all 50 states take part in National Night Out. Activities typically include safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more, according to a release from the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.
The Florence County Sheriff’s Office marked the occasion at the Leatherman Senior Center with free hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cupcakes and soft drinks. There was face painting for the children and outdoor games. Entertainment included song and dance. Door prizes were also given out to members of the community.
Sgt. Steve Mumford, a public relations officer and organizer of the event for the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, said National Night Out is an annual community building event.
“We do this because it sends a strong message to the criminals that the law enforcement and community are working to solidify our partnership to stop crime,” he said.
He said he expected between 250 to 300 people to attend the event.
Sheriff William C. Barnes greeted the group.
He stressed the importance of a partnership between law enforcement and the community.
“You are our partners and our eyes and ears,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to call us.”
Chief Deputy Glen Kirby was the guest speaker.
Kirby, a 32-year law enforcement veteran with all of his service in Florence County, said when he started out with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, Barnes told him that he didn’t have to arrest everybody. They were there to help the community.
He said the community needs to watch what its children are doing.
“Don’t be afraid to be nosy,” he said. “We try to be everywhere all the time, but that is not possible.”
He said education is important to training our youth to be productive citizens. He said a partnership between law enforcement and the community is needed to stop them from “going into this revolving door of incarceration.”
Janis Munnerlyn, chairman the Crimestoppers board, spoke to members of the community gathered at the Leatherman Senior Center about how they support law enforcement by offering rewards for information about crimes. She said if an arrest is made, a reward is given. She encouraged all in attendance to call Crimestoppers if they have information about a crime.
The city of Florence community action team gave three presentations to crime watch groups.
Those presentations were held at Church Hill Apartments; NorthWest Park, located at Clement; and Greater Wilson Heights. The Greater Wilson Heights Crime Watch group fed law enforcement prior to their presentation.
Betty Gregg, president of the Greater Wilson Heights Crime Watch, said they prepared a meal for the police department and held a program to talk about crime in the community.
She said she has seen a difference in the amount of crimes in their neighborhood since they started the crime watch 14 years ago in September. She said there are approximately 15 steady members of the group.
They meet the first Monday of the month at the House of God Church.
Lt. Mike Brandt of the support services division of the Florence Police Department, said National Night Out is an opportunity for the community to represent itself out in the community.
He said the important thing is they come together as one and take ownership.
“We partner with our neighborhood watch groups, and we want to be a part of them, not just in them,” he said.