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Tallahassee's Southside Hosts First "Night Out" Against Crime

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For the first time, Tallahassee's Southside hosted its own National Night Out on Tuesday, August 4.   The idea was to help foster more neighborhood pride and as well as a greater connection to the community at large.

Hundreds of people, young and old, poured into Jack McLean Park to hear speakers like Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“As one community, one Tallahassee regardless of what side of town we live on, we’re in this whole thing together,” he told the crowd.  “This is our city and we’re not going to give it away or let it be taken from us by people who mean us harm and who mean us ill will.”

Many community organizations also had information booths.  There was food, entertainment and more than a few law officers casually strolling around and being friendly.  That included Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo.

“We’re trying to make a concerted effort that we need to be reaching out to the community,” he said between chats with residents.  “We can’t expect people to come to us all the time and when we were approached with the idea of putting the events back out in the neighborhoods, this was one of the ideas to make it more convenient for people.  And may be symbolically, but this is where we’re trying to address a lot of those issues and rebuild a lot of those relationships long-term, so it seemed like a natural fit.”

Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who lives on the Southside, hoped the often crime-plagued area will become more self-policing over time.

“What we’re telling the neighbors here tonight is they’ve got to be a part of that process,” Richardson said.  “We can’t sit back and wait for the police to do it alone.  They’ve got to be the ears and eyes and an extension of our law enforcement agencies.  And so we want them to feel comfortable doing that; reporting crime when they see something or hear something and then let the police department be involved.”

What can help many of the area’s residents overcome long-standing distrust of police and a deeply imbedded “no snitch” response to crime?  Past Council of Neighborhood Associations President Christic Henry sees neighborhood pride as a powerful force for change.

“I think that we have to make sure that we are giving the message that this area is a valuable area in our city,” she stressed.  “That our stakeholders have value in their ownership of the area – not just in home ownership but in their ownership of HERE – and I think that’s when you change the crime conversation because really you focus so much on the negative that you don’t give a chance for people to embrace the positive that happens here and this is really where it happens.”

The local theme for the Thirty-Second Annual National Night Out event was "Give Crime a Going-Away Party."