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Residents enjoy a night out
Event briefs children and parents on safety
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911 Training Coordinator Brit Cortes hands Tyler Maxwell, 6, a coloring book as his sister, Mary Lynn Maxwell, 13, looks at a brochure during Tuesdays crime- and drug-prevention event. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Law enforcement, firefighters, 911 center staffers and social-service organizations disguised a serious message of safety in family friendly activities during Tuesday’s National Night Out in Hinesville’s Bradwell Park.

The crime- and drug-prevention event is held in communities across the country every year. The local celebration was coordinated by Hinesville Police Department Officer James Williams, who also oversees the HPD neighborhood watch program.

“I want the residents to feel comfortable that we are there to help them any way we can and that they know who their law-enforcement officers are,” Williams said in a news release.

Crowds of parents, grandparents and children braved late-afternoon summer heat to browse booths in the downtown area.

Some youngsters swiveled brightly colored Hula-hoops by the park’s fountain. Others were handed coloring books and pencils. Residents of all ages watched live entertainers, such as the Mt. Zion Chapel Mime Team, perform. Parents filled blue Walmart bags with printed information on drug-abuse prevention, bullying and Internet safety. The Hinesville Police Department’s crossing guards fingerprinted children as a precaution should they ever go missing.

HPD Chief George Stagmeier said he was pleased with this year’s turnout.

“I think we have more vendors and activities here than in years past,” Stagmeier said. “It’s great participation.”

The chief said National Night Out is an opportunity to raise crime awareness and help strengthen the relationship between residents and police.

Liberty County Public Safety Communications Director Tom Wahl and 911 Training Coordinator Brit Cortes briefed parents and children on how and when to dial 911.

“The information we give is dependent on their age,” Wahl said.

He and his staff encourage children to call for help if they find themselves in a situation they believe to be an emergency, which, Wahl said, is better than children not calling at all because they are afraid. He said communication officers will ask to speak to an adult when a young child calls, and if an adult is not present, the officer will keep the youngster on the phone to determine the situation. Wahl said locations usually can be tracked using longitude and latitude coordinates when a child calls from a cell phone. Workers in the 911 call center also can send a police officer to check out a situation if a young child calls.

As for older children, Wahl said he and his staff are happy to instruct teens about the appropriate time to make a 911, which, hopefully, will discourage prank calls.

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