FAIRMONT — Mayor Charles Kemp looked to the crowd of about 60 people at Tuesday’s National Night Out and wished the space at Fairmont’s Heritage Center was standing-room only.
“I believe in National Night Out … but more importantly, I believe in the citizens taking an active role in their neighborhoods,” he said. “Those are the extra eyes, ears and voices for the Police Department.”
National Night Out went on Tuesday in Fairmont, where the event is inside, but because of the weather it was postponed for another day in Red Springs and Maxton, and canceled altogether in Lumberton.
Fairmont Police Chief Danny Parker seconded Kemp’s sentiments as he announced that since last year’s National Night Out, his force of 11 officers responded to 4,312 calls for service from Fairmont’s population of 2,591 people.
“As law enforcement, we cannot do it alone,” he said. “We need each and every one of you in this room to make sure that we make our community safe … and to be with us as we fight crime.”
Leon Burton, who became an anti-gang activist after serving 15 years in federal prison, said that keeping a close eye on young people is crucial to preventing crime.
“You need to know about your child,” said Burton, who said he once was a member of a gang. “I was one of these kids that was an A and B honor roll student. I acted good around my mom, but when I got in the streets I was a different person.”
Burton said that he spent time in prison with people who were 18 and 19 years old and who were “being raised by the prison system.”
“It’s not the chief’s job, it’s not the mayor’s job, it’s not the police job to help raise your child,” he said. “Sometimes, you need to raise your child.”
Melvin Rodgers, who leads the neighborhood watch in Fairmont’s Happy Hill area, was in the audience along with his wife Mary and their 3-year-old granddaughter Makiya.
“Anytime there’s an event with information about crime in the community, that gets put on the front burner,” Rodgers said.
Others, like Sharon and Ava Lewis, said they were there to “support the town.” Fairmont natives John and Sally Morgan said they wanted to show support for the “town, police officers, and the country as well.”
As part of the Fairmont event, members of the Fairmont Police Department were introduced; a senior citizen choir, the Sensational Seniors of Fairmont, performed; Wendy Doeller, music director at Trinity Methodist Church, sang the national anthem; and the Rev. James Malloy gave the invocation. James Smith, of the Safe Neighborhoods Program, gave residents tips on how to help prevent crime at their homes — including locking doors, securing windows and keeping foliage trimmed to eliminate hiding places.
National Night Out was started in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for local anti crime programs and strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.
Maxton’s event has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. today at Beacham Park. Red Springs has not yet set a date.