Region 8 Celebrates National Night Out

August 7, 2007 - Posted at 10:22 p.m. CDT     

PARAGOULD, AR -- More than 11,000 communities across North America are taking part in the 24th annual National Night Out. What started out as a traditional "keep the lights on" has turned into a national movement.

Folks across the U.S., including right here in Region 8, are celebrating with block parties, cookouts, parades, neighborhood walks and meetings...but for one Northeast Arkansas  community, fighting crime in their town has become a necessity.

Its tragedy that's made headlines this summer for Paragould.

"Once they got on the scene they discovered a white male with a gunshot wound to the lower left chest area," said Lt. Tony Williams of the Paragould Police Department in a July 22, 2007 interview.  27-year-old Jason Clinton was found laying dead on the concrete right outside a home off Highway 412 in Paragould.

One June 7, Tiffany Parker was found dead by police and her mother.  Her ex-husband Kristopher Dean Parker was arrested for allegedly killing her and abducting their 2-year-old son.l

"Officers went to the scene with the mother, got there and found the victim deceased inside the residence," said Paragould Police Chief J.D. Stephenson.

But on Tuesday, it was a community striking back.

"It's like a pebble in a pond.  We are going to start out with this event and every year we are going to grow bigger and it's going to send the crime rate out of greene county because we are tired of having to feel unsafe when you go to get into your car or feeling unsafe when you leave stuff outside of your home," said NNO event organizer Anna Tichenor.

The Association of Neighborhood watches started the first Paragould National Night residents a chance to take the front porch vigils a little further.

"The safety of the community, i feel, is really strong and that's what brings everybody out here together.  They can ask us questions about the safety of the community and what we do to help them, providing the safety of the community, so that's a good thing about the National Night Out," said Cprl. Scott Oxford  of the Paragould Police Deptarment.

From karate to farmer's golf to walking the sobriety line for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, families had a chance to strengthen neighborhood spirit.  And for some, it was the opportunity to help prevent crime.

"They take their picture and you fill out all of the information and it's put on a disk and you get to take it with you and if they ever come up missing then you have that to locate them," said Jennifer Wilhite.

"This is my nephew Bricen Wilkens and he is very important to me and I would hate for someone to take him and us not be able to locate him and so I think the Morgan Nick Amber Alert is a wonderful, wonderful thing," said Carrie Cooper.

Last year, more than 35 million people from all 50 states participated in National Night Out.