National Night Out in Huntsville celebrates crime prevention, encourages community watches

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Huntsville Police call National Night Out a "going away party" for crime.

It's the 32nd annual event, celebrated nationally by more than 16,500 communities. In Huntsville, the event at the Jaycee's Building on Airport Road showcased resources within the community from search and rescue dogs to law enforcement and city agencies. There were fun events for kids and child safety seat checks. The emphasis was on safety, for you and your family as well as your community.

Huntsville Community Watch partnered with the Huntsville Police Department to put on the event, but also to protect their neighborhoods.

"They are our community partners and we work together to help solve problems in neighborhoods," explained Captain Jeffery Rice. "You can't serve a community unless you know what the problems are. And who better knows what the problems are than the individuals who live in those communities?" he added.

One of those people is Opal Meek.

She takes laps around her neighborhoods every day, picking up suspicious items like bullets, shell casings, and credit cards she finds along the way. She also takes note when things are out-of-place, and says she has located some stolen cars in her neighborhood from time to time parked at vacant homes.

She has lived in her home since 1959, but noticed the area going downhill several decades after moving in. So she started working with the community watch. When she started to hand out meeting notices, "I was informed that it wasn't safe for me to walk around in this community," she said.

Since the community has become closer and banded together through the watch, it's gotten better she says.

"It is much improved. And that is entirely thanks to this whole community working together," said Meek.

"Miss Opal is a gem. I wish every neighborhood had one," said Officer Billy Clardy, a community relations officer. Community relations officers in HPD work with community watches, and can even help to set them up.

"We are the eyes and ears of the police department," said Meek.

Huntsville community watch leaders say there are 166 watch groups at work in the city. They'd like to see more, because these areas already have the power to change living within them.

To start a community watch group in your area, you can call the numbers below:

Huntsville Community Watch Association: 256-746-4139

HPD North Precinct: 256-746-4104

HPD West Precinct: 256-427-5496

HPD South Precinct: 256-213-4548