10/7/2018 7:00:00 AM 'Together, we can make a difference' National Night Out about more than just crime prevention
Debbie Walters (left), the organizer of the National Night Out event for the Morton Street and Surrounding Areas Neighborhood Watch group, thanked all the participants who helped make the event a success, including Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier (right). (Telegram Photos By Pete Wilson)
Hannah Conley (pictured) accompanied herself on the guitar while singing a couple of songs at the National Night Out event in Jackson.
What appeared to be a party broke out Tuesday evening, Oct. 2, in the one-block section of Logan Street between Morton Street and Freeman Street in Jackson.
While many of those in attendance appeared to have a good time, there was also a higher purpose involved as the gathering served as the local National Night Out event for the Neighborhood Watch group for Morton Street and the Surrounding Area. The objective of the public event is to enable residents to come together to "Take Back the Streets" against crime and to also allow attendees to meet and speak with law enforcement officers and others who provide helpful services and information to the public.
Morton Street resident Debbie Walters helped to establish the Neighborhood Watch group back in 2011 to address crime problems in the vicinity through a joint effort. She and others have worked with the Jackson Police Department in recent years and both she and police believe the effort has paid off. The National Night Out event has become a signature coming-out event to promote the group and its positive mission. She realizes that the formula for success involves not only confronting and preventing crime, but helping people get off drugs.
National Night Out had initially been scheduled for a date in August, but was rescheduled due to stormy weather. Walters was very happy with the turnout, both from participants and the public. When she briefly addressed the crowd, Walters stated that the event was "about giving people hope."
"I think it's helped some - if nothing else for the education," Walters told The Telegram. "At the time we formed the group, you could throw a rock in any direction here and hit a place where drugs were being sold. We text and communicate with each other about what we see going on and we try to watch out for each other."
Jackson Second Ward Councilman Ron Queen, who represents the Morton Street neighborhood, has been an active member and supporter of the group since its inception. "I think this has helped and that some people [drug users and traffickers] have moved out and I think this has stopped some of the crime," Queen assessed.
Representatives of local law enforcement agencies, the Jackson County Municipal Court, local-government officials, and drug treatment and counseling organizations and other service providers and support groups were all present to interact with residents and other citizens who attended. There was also free entertainment, food and activities for the kids.
Jackson Acting Police Chief Maria Uribe, who has worked with Walters and her group since it was formed, feels the citizen involvement is one of the keys to solving crimes and preventing them.
"Things happen when you don't get involved," she told The Telegram while noting that the Morton Street group's involvement has brought about some positive results.
Sheriff Frazier agreed that a group effort is important. "It's tremendous when everybody works together and you have all these groups here," the sheriff commented. "When these groups work together to help others, it's great for law enforcement."
Reggie Robinson, the community coordinator for Health Recovery Services, was present to play his role of "Rockin' Reggie" and provided announcing and DJ services; in addition to serving as an informed commentator on fighting the drug problem. Robinson reported that $1 spent in drug prevention saves $28 in costs that would occur otherwise. "People can and do recover," he said.
Other officials on hand included Acting Jackson Police Chief Maria Uribe, Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier, Jackson County Municipal Court Judge Mark Musick, Jackson Mayor Randy Heath, Jackson City Council President Eric Brown, and Jackson City Councilmen Ron Queen and Jon Hensler. The Jackson Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol was also represented.
Mayor Heath saluted the National Night Out project and had special praise for the Jackson Police Department, but said it would continue to require a team effort. "This is a battle which is going to have to be fought on all fronts," he told the crowd.
National Night Out was more than crime prevention and a meet-and-greet. It was also organized as an opportunity to provide education and information about drug use and how residents can receive assistance.
Judge Musick brought multiple members of his staff, who also are involved in an ongoing Drug Court. Representatives of the Jackson County Substance-Abuse Prevention and Addiction Resource (SPARC) coalition were present, as were representatives of drug treatment/counseling organizations such as Breaking Chains, Warriors 4 Christ, Spectrum, Prism, and Health Recovery Services. Shadra Jenkins of the Jackson Area YMCA and Southern Ohio Krav Maga owner and head instructor Scott King were among the service providers present.
Hannah Conley touched the crowd with two appropriate soulful songs and Phil Smith of Breaking Chains provided an impassioned prayer. There was a variety of games to occupy the children and free chili was available.