CLAYTON — Families, firefighters, police officers and town leaders gathered Tuesday on the Town Square for Clayton’s fifth annual National Night Out Against Crime.
National Night Out is a yearlong community-building campaign, culminating in a “night out” held the same night in all 50 states. The goal is to let criminals know neighborhoods are fighting back.
In a town like Clayton, which has little crime, the goal is to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, said John McFadden, who has organized Clayton’s Night Out for the past four years.
“This kind of function is indicative of why we don’t have a lot of crime in Clayton,” said Police Chief Robert Wayne Bridges. Clayton residents are involved in their community, and they know when they should call police, the chief said.
The overall crime rate decreased last year, and the number of crimes in 2012 was 0.6 percent below the 10-year average. The town’s population has nearly tripled in that time. In 2012, for the fifth year in a row, Clayton had no murders. The number of violent crimes increased by four, with the largest increase in the number of aggravated assaults. The number of property crimes, including burglary, larceny and motor-vehicle thefts, decreased by six from 2011.
“This event is a time when police and residents can come together and collectively say, ‘We won’t stand for crime,’ ” Bridges said.
Diane Kerkhoff came to the event with her granddaughter, Anna LaGrassa. “We are trying to get her to be familiar with the sounds of fire trucks and police and ambulances, and being around them,” Kerkhoff said. “She’s always afraid of the noises.
Two-year-old Anna spent the evening playing with a toy ambulance, hugging it and not wanting to let it go.
“I’ve never seen her be so connected to something before,” her grandmother said.
Clayton Councilman Art Holder, who attended the event, said National Night Out is good for the town because it brings people together. “This is one of the many events that attracts people to downtown, like the concert series,” Holder said.
The family-friendly event featured informational booths, a bounce house, a martial arts demonstration and snack vendors, including Patty Cake Bakery.
Young children stood in awe of the martial arts performance, many of them saying they wanted to do karate and kung fu after seeing it.
In the background, police officers, including the chief, mingled with kids and their parents.
The highlight for many of the children was talking to the many mascots, including Sparky the firefighter dog and Smokey Bear.
McFadden estimated this year’s crowed at 250 people, down from about 600 last year.