“This is us coming together, and standing as one large family, as a community, recognizing that these brave men and women who wear uniforms provide the blanket of security and safety that we sleep under every day.” That’s how Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin summed up the reason for National Night Out, an annual event designed to encourage people to make their communities safer by getting to know their neighbors as well as their local law enforcement.
Columbia kicked off this year’s National Night Out Sunday with a free event open to the entire community at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in the Vista. The Columbia Police Department, Columbia Fire Department, and Richland County Sheriff’s Department were on hand along with many city and county organizations to meet the people, share a meal, and explain what they do.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” said Amber Myers of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods. “When people know each other, there’s a tendency not to commit crime on those individuals.”
Sunday’s event will be followed by numerous neighborhood events Tuesday across the Midlands. The Lexington Police Department will host one at the Lexington Square Park, and many are set for communities in Columbia and Richland County. A full list of scheduled events is available here.
Deputy Chief Melron Kelly of the Columbia Police Department thanked everyone on hand Sunday for their support. “It is a great task, but it is a good task as well,” he said of the work police do in the community. “If we can ever give assistance, don’t hesitate to call us.”
Pictured: a member of the Columbia Police Department’s Bomb Squad shows excited kids his team’s equipment Sunday at the kickoff event (photo by Allen Wallace)