Events planned to reduce crime

CONYERS -- Law enforcement officials are encouraging residents to take a stand and help reduce residential crimes by participating in this year's National Night Out event.

National Night Out, observed the first Tuesday in August, is an annual crime and drug awareness event that takes place in neighborhoods across the country where residents gather to support prevention and policing efforts.

Though individual Rockdale County neighborhood watch groups are not hosting events, Rockdale County Sheriff's Office Lt. Mike Sellers said the Sheriff's Office is holding an open community event.

RCSO is partnering with Target Corp. to host a free National Night Out event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the Target parking lot off Ga. Highway 20. The public is invited to enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs and learn from public safety displays put on by law enforcement, Conyers Police Department, Rockdale County Fire and Rescue, and other county service departments. General safety information, including what to do while out of town and being familiar with surroundings, will also be available.

Sellers said he has seen the positive impact that events like National Night Out have made in neighborhoods and communities. He described it as a partnership.

"It just builds the relationship between law enforcement and the community," Sellers said. "We get to know them and they get to know us."

And getting to know area neighbors goes a long way in keeping the community safe, Sellers added.

"An extra set of eyes helps you keep it safe," Sellers said.

Margaret Freeman, Neighborhood Watch Program coordinator for her Covington community, echoed that belief.

"Safety is just everybody's concern. We have to be the eyes and ears for one another," Freeman said.

Covington neighborhood Lakewood Estates, including surrounding apartments and condos, will host its first National Night Out event 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 3 at the neighborhood's Enclave, or recreation area.

The evening will include a cookout, presentations from different security companies, self-defense demonstrations by UMAC Karate studio, and bullying tips for youths. In addition to appearances from law enforcement, there will also be a school supply giveaway and demonstrations of door locks and security by Home Depot and Lowe's.

Pointing to previous vandalism and other crimes, Freeman added the information and resources at the event will help address safety concerns.

"We've had several incidents in the community. It hasn't been bad. We've had a couple of people who were victims of attempted break-ins," Freeman said.

The slogan for Freeman's program is "We look out for each other," Freeman said, calling their efforts "citizens on patrol."

"Nowadays, you don't get to know your next-door neighbor," Freeman said. "The economy has hit the community pretty hard, just like any other community ... so we have a mixture of homeowners and renters and we're all here together."