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Wilson County celebrates National Night Out
Aug 09, 2012 12:00 am
It's a night designed to make everyone, especially children, feel more comfortable with law enforcement officers. It would seem to be a clear case of mission accomplished.
With the band Smokehouse playing in the background, Wilson County residents came to Don Fox Park Tuesday evening to get to know their law enforcement officers and take a look at the some of the equipment they use to keep the community safe. Children were everywhere, swarming over police vehicles and petting police dogs and horses.
The Lebanon Police Department, Lebanon Public Safety, the Wilson County Sheriff's Department, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Lebanon Fire Department and a host of local agencies and businesses were at the park with display booths, law enforcement equipment, balloons and treats to help the youngsters, and their parents, become more at ease with the people who keep them safe.
Tuesday marked the 29th Annual National Night Out crime and drug prevention event, which was sponsored locally by the LPD and the WCSD. The event was celebrated in over 15,325 communities from all 50 states. In all, over 37.1 million people were expected to participate in “America's Night Out Against Crime.”
National Night Out is designed to: Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime efforts; Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
At this annual event, WCSD deputies were busy making fingerprints for children and speaking about the different aspects of the sheriff's department. The department also displayed WCSD's patrol boat, mobile command center, SWAT vehicles, patrol horses, search and rescue dogs and a jail transport van to give everyone, especially children, a look at what real crime fighting looks like.
Not to be outdone, LPS had two rather scary SWAT vehicles that lost their menace as children climbed inside to take a look.
LPD Patrol Officer Matt Dedman said the Light Armored Vehicle could be used if a suspect barricades himself in and can travel at speeds up to 55 mph. He said the City of Lebanon is good about providing equipment to keep officers safe.
"They definitely take care of us," he said.
Luring kids and animal loving adults, Lebanon Animal Control brought cats, dogs and one adorable puppy to tempt people into adopting a pet in need
The WCSD's Mounted Patrol drew a lot of people with Deputy Teresa Reeves atop Playboy and Sgt. Don Witherspoon on Cisco.
Reeves said she saw a mounted patrol when she was a girl and was hooked.
"I said 'I want to do that, that would be the coolest job,'" she remembered. Judging by the looks on the kid's faces, they found it pretty cool as well.
Kids were also happy to take a look inside the WCSD's transport van, probably imagining themselves shackled inside. Deputy Terry Sague and Deputy Roger Smith were showing off the vehicle that has separate place for male and female prisoners.
"It's been fantastic," said Sague. "We've had a great group of young people here, everybody's interested in the transport vehicle."
The WCSD's Mobile Command Unit was popular with the kids as the officers offered prizes and treats for them to enjoy, as well as taking their fingerprints.
"We want to make it fun for them so they know they can come to us for help," said Chad Vance of the WCSD's Special Response Team, the group called in when there is a hostage situation or someone has barricaded themselves in a building.
The department also brought along several search and rescue dogs. Melissa Riley is the K-9 coordinator for the S&R team.
"They do live find," she said as she watched over the children petting Maggie and Jo Jo.
Also represented at the event is the WCSD department that is already making people feel safe with law enforcement — the Senior Citizens Awareness Network, the group that does welfare checks on local seniors.
SCAN Director Debbie Pare said more people than ever are calling them for help, but there is still a lot of people who don't know the program exists.
"We've been super busy," she said. "We have about 135 people in the program, a lot of them have come to us for heat related issues in need of fans and air conditioners. We are also still seeing a lot of issues that are food related."
If you would like to donate money, your time, or host a food drive to benefit local seniors in need, SCAN wants to hear from you. Call the WCSD at 444-1412 ext, 499 and they will tell you how you can help.
The Lebanon based National Guard Unit was also at the park with a couple of official looking vehicles. Staff Sgt. Starbuck Hunt said bringing the Army vehicles to the event helped kids see what real soldiers drive around in.
"Kids can jump on them if they want," he said with a laugh.
Elizabeth Anderson of the WCSD is always on hand coordinating events for the department and the NNO was no exception.
"It's going very, very good," she said as she rushed off to take care of something else.
LPD Officer P.J. Hardy was one of the chief organizers of the event and he was running about making sure everything was coming off as scheduled.
"I've been here for hours and it's gone really well," he said. "I want to make sure everyone is taken care of. It never ceases to amaze me how this event continues to grow because so many organizations want to be a part of it."
Does he think events that help kids become more relaxed around police officers is a good recruiting tool?
"We hope so," he said.
If you would like more information on starting a Neighborhood Watch Group, contact Anderson at the WCSD at 615-444-1412 ext 489 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at email@example.com
National Night Out 1 Photo: Dallus Whitfield • The Lebanon Democrat
Dawson Sutton gets a balloon Tuesday evening at Don Fox Park during the National Night Out observance hosted by the Lebanon Police Department and Wilson County Sheriff's Department. For more photos, go to Spotted! at www.lebanondemocrat.com.