published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Neighbors shine light on crime during National Night Out

Instructor Gail Frances, front, leads students (l to r) Mary Beth Graham, Megan Hawkins, Rachel Binkley, Ashley Dollar, Darius Dewan, Keshontai Jones, and Ferris Jones in blocking and punching exercises during a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class offered at the National Night Out, held at the Southside Recreation Center in Chattanooga on Tuesday night.
Instructor Gail Frances, front, leads students (l to r) Mary Beth Graham, Megan Hawkins, Rachel Binkley, Ashley Dollar, Darius Dewan, Keshontai Jones, and Ferris Jones in blocking and punching exercises during a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class offered at the National Night Out, held at the Southside Recreation Center in Chattanooga on Tuesday night.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

The Rev. John Merriwether folded his arms across his chest and prayed for peace and solutions to make Alton Park better.

“There is too much violence,” he said. “No discipline in the home and prayer and the Lord is taken out of everything. We’ve got a generation lost, and we’ve got to get them and bring them in.”

Merriwether, pastor of St. James Baptist Church, was among many speakers at the National Night Out kickoff celebration Tuesday.

Alton Park, Piney Woods and Oak Hill communities hosted their event at the South Chattanooga Recreation Center. The neighborhoods were among 35 in Chattanooga that met Tuesday evening in parks and recreation centers to mingle and better organize against crime.

“Be sure to speak to everybody and meet somebody new,” said Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham, whose district includes Alton Park, Piney Woods and Oak Hill.

Chattanooga is among 15,300 communities observing National Night Out around the country, in Canada and in U.S. territories. This is the first year that cities in Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana observed the event in October instead of August to avoid the summer heat.

The purpose is to heighten crime prevention awareness, generate participation in local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood and police partnerships and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back.

Crime is a bullying process, said Chattanooga Police Sgt. Wayne Jefferson, who helped organize the event across the city. If criminals know residents aren’t going to get involved, they can take over a neighborhood, he said. But when neighborhoods take a stand and start delivering information to the police about criminals, the residents become effective in removing crime from their community, he said.

In their National Night Out event, Washington Hills, Lake Chickamauga, Bal Harbor and Murray Hills neighborhoods met at Murray Hills’ walking track for face painting and music. Washington Hills residents flipped on their porch lights from 6 to 8 p.m. and put balloons on their mailboxes in observance of the night.

St. Elmo merchants near the Incline blocked off the street and had an open house for their businesses. Live music played while residents walked dogs and browsed through a crafts fair.

People in Ridgedale met at the park near 12th and Buckley streets and handed out stickers to kids. McCallie School representatives brought food.

“I am overwhelmed,” said long-time Alton Park resident Milton Jackson, looking out into a gym full of people. “Let all of us get together and continue to make this a great community.”

Participating neighborhoods

• Alton Park

• Piney Woods

• Oak Hills

• Midfield Acres

• Battery Heights

• Highland Park

• Shawnee Hill

• M.L. King

• Murray Hills

• Washington Hills

• Lake Chickamauga

• Bal Harbor

• Ridgedale

• Avondale

• Wheeler Avenue

• Bushtown

• Churchville

• Orchard Knob

• Glenwood

• Cloverdale

• North Hixson

• East Lake

• Shepherd

• Menlo Park

• Fairfax

• Bagwell

• Missionary Ridge

• Clifton Hills

• Oak Grove

• Jefferson Heights

• Olde Town

• Cedar Hill

• St. Elmo

• Audubon

• Lake Hills

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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