CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several communities throughout Kanawha County participated in National Night Out on Tuesday, a crime prevention event meant to build stronger ties between police officers and community members.
Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said the event is a chance not only to educate the community on safety measures but for police officers to get to know residents as well.
“It’s an opportunity for me to go out and be seen as a person,” he said. “That’s how we want the officers to be seen.”
Webster said most solved crimes rely on community input.
“A lot of times I think people think how dependent the community is on the Police Department,” Webster said. “It really is the other way around. We’re only as successful as the community allows us to be.”
Webster planned to join Carolyn Stuart, of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs; U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin; and Deanna McKinney for appearances at South Park Village, Washington Manor and Orchard Manor.
McKinney’s son Tymel was shot to death in Charleston in April.
At a National Night Out event held at the Agsten Manor in Charleston, senior citizens learned about phone and Internet scams and Alzheimer’s disease before hearing from Charleston Police Cpl. Gary Daniels.
Daniels said he wanted participants and other community members to remember that the Police Department is there to help.
“The community is our eyes and ears,” he said. “A lot of times the community sees more than we do.”
He hoped attendees would be comfortable bringing up any of their concerns.
“I’m coming to their place of residence,” he said. “They’re not coming to meet me somewhere.”
One participant at Agsten Manor, Patricia Gibson, said she thinks the event is an excellent idea.
“I think people should know their police officers,” she said. “I think it’s good for police officers to get acquainted with community members as well.”
In Dunbar, community members were planning four walks through different areas of town.
Katherine McCormick, an organizer, said police and a City Council member would be walking through the surrounding community in each area with participants.
“The message we’re trying to send is that we are standing in support with our Police Department against any drug dealers in our town, any thugs in our town, anyone who wants to cause problems in our town,” she said. “We are standing with the Police Department, and we are watching.”
McCormick hopes the event could inspire more community members to join the Dunbar Neighborhood Watch program.
Since she joined the group six months ago, tips from members have helped police with several drug busts.
“They don’t have to go out there and necessarily walk the neighborhood,” she said. “They can just be observant to what’s going on around them, where they live or at the business they work at. Give the police a call. Let them know what’s going on. They can take it from there.”
Reach Erin Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.