National Night Out: Residents, cops join in fight on crime
By Chris Day
Thursday, August 8, 2019
Tuesday’s National Night Out was a good event for fostering improved relationships between police and residents, says Elizabeth City’s top cop.
“Anytime law enforcement and the community can come together as one is a good day,” said Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe. “There’s a lot going on. We’re happy.”
Buffaloe was speaking during National Night Out Against Crime, held at Waterfront Park, Tuesday evening. At least 200 people attended the police department’s signature community outreach event, which started at 6 p.m. under a bright sun that was already creeping toward the horizon.
On Water Street in front of Museum of the Albemarle, children were laughing and splashing in a shower of cool water raining down from the hose of an Elizabeth City Fire Department ladder truck.
Elsewhere, families were spread out on the lawn and seated at picnic tables, enjoying the music and chatting.
Given last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, National Night Out was a relief for communities seeking a spirit of togetherness.
“Our hearts go out to their families and to our partners in law enforcement and first-responders,” Buffaloe said, referring to the victims’ families and fellow police and emergency response personnel in El Paso and Dayton.
Helping set the tone early for a night of fun was the traditional doughnut eating contest. More than a dozen participants faced off near the gazebo to see who could knock down the most Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts in one minute.
This year’s champ was Jequam McGhee, 28, of Elizabeth City. McGhee ate six of the sugary snacks for the win.
The evening marked not only McGhee’s first time attending National Night Out but also his first time competing in a food-eating contest.
“I was surprised,” he said, of the number of doughnuts he ate. “Because I’d just eaten two hotdogs before this.”
McGhee prepared by watching YouTube videos of a popular competitive food eater.
“Maybe this started off his competitive food-eating career,” his wife Stacy Perkins said laughing.
The couple agreed that it was great that police departments and communities across the nation were enjoying the fellowship that National Night Out provides.
One staple activity absent from this year’s National Night Out was a demonstration of the police department’s K9 force. That’s because recently all three of the department’s K9 dogs were retired from service, Buffaloe said.
The force has three new dogs in training at a facility near Rocky Mount and the super sniffing animals will be joining the department later this year.
Traveling from Gates County to attend the evening was Amber Pereira and her 3-year-old son, Zachary Hibbert. They were joined by Zachary’s grandmother, Denise Green.
“It’s a good turnout,” Pereira said of the event.
The three were sitting on the lawn behind the shady patch of trees in the middle of the park. It was their first time attending and they came so Zachary could play and the three could spend a nice evening together.
National Night Out featured lots of activities to keep children happy and entertained.
On the north edge of the park an inflatable slide was getting lots of customers. There also were several games, most of which required skill to play. There was skee ball and a much bigger version of the board game, “Operation.” At another booth, children tested their strength using a sledge hammer to try to ring a bell, and the game Balloon Blast involved using a bicycle pump to be the first to fill a balloon with air and to burst it.
Several area organizations, such as River City Community Development Corp. YouthBuild, College of The Albemarle, and Albemarle Hopeline sponsored information booths. One booth was hosted by the Wild Eagles chapter of the local Civil Air Patrol.
Beau Smith, 16, a CAP cadet and student at Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies, gave Night Out attendees a brief history of the Civil Air Patrol.
The organization was formed of volunteers during World War II to assist the U.S. Army Air Corps with coastal U-boat patrols, said Smith, an aspiring U.S. Air Force pilot. During the war, CAP pilots flew small civilian aircraft and dropped a total of 82 bombs on suspected German submarines, Smith said.
After the war, the CAP was folded into the Air Force, which was created in 1947, and today it is the air service’s auxiliary component.
According to one senior CAP official on hand Tuesday, North Carolina’s Civil Air Patrol wing is formed of about 2,000 members, 30 squadrons and a total of 17 aircraft. Serving as a key component of the Air Force’s search-and-rescue mission, the CAP accounted for a total of 158 lives saved last year, the official said.