With plenty of games, music and cool drinks to beat the heat, several Columbus-area neighborhoods threw crime
a going-away party yesterday as part of National Night Out.
The annual event, which celebrated its 24th year nationwide, aims to link neighbors, law-enforcement officers and community
officials to heighten crime awareness and strengthen neighborhood bonds.
Neighborhood associations and block-watch groups from across Columbus planned the gatherings, placing their own spin on
the national event.
Columbus Division of Police Lt. Donald Cade said the citywide events symbolize unity among neighborhoods, community leaders
"They are drawn to it because people are tired of crime," Cade said. "It's an opportunity to get up and voice their opinions
in a peaceful manner and celebrate with their neighbors."
Six animals, including a flamingo, alligator and armadillo, were on hand from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to entertain
the about 200 people at a Hilltop celebration.
Zoo promotions assistant Shawn Brehob carried an African ball python near a group of children holding plates of Oreos and
hot dogs at the three-hour cookout on S. Ogden Avenue.
"You eat every day, right? Well, he eats once a month," Brehob told the kids of the 4-foot-long snake. He was answered
by a chorus of screams and giggles.
Hilltop resident Anna Young, 27, said she purchased her S. Ogden Avenue home after touring it during last year's National
"I didn't know this community togetherness was something I wanted until I saw it in action," she said. "I thought it was
Young spent time yesterday meeting neighbors and city officials, and learned that she attends the same church as two City
Cade, who helped coordinate some of last night's gatherings, said more than 40 planned events in the city were designed
to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back, because "one of the greatest deterrents
for crime is just having people out."
At Finland Elementary School in Franklin Township, Westbrook-Eastfield Neighborhood Association President Juanita Kaufman
surveyed the crowd during a live auction.
Township resident Kaufman, 85, has been helping coordinate her block watch's National Night Out event for 11 years and
said she's seen the positive effects of neighborhood bonding.
"We've kept car break-ins down, alerted neighbors to suspicious people wandering around and worked close with police,"
"This just makes for a better place to live."