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Nearly 800 turn out for National Night Out
Event aims to educate children, parents about crime prevention
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Visitors to the National Night Out event at Target get an up close look at the Georgia State Patrol’s helicopter Tuesday evening.Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County and other community partners gave out items for the kids, and Target donated back to school items as well.

Children got the chance to hold a 37 mm six-shot grenade launcher and get a few school supplies Tuesday evening at National Night Out in Gainesville.

National Night Out is a crime prevention event held throughout the country on Aug. 2. It gives the community an opportunity to meet and ask questions of local law enforcement, firefighters and other community organizations.

Joe Britte, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, said he was glad to see a successful turnout, estimated at almost 800 people, at the Target store parking lot on Shallowford Road in Gainesville.

"It's actually an awesome experience to see how kids and families come out and learn about Neighborhood Watch. They learn about how to keep themselves safe and also get some school supplies," Britte said.

Jonathan Jackson, training coordinator of the Uniform Patrol Division of Hall County Sheriff's Office, showed children the gear a SWAT team uses and let them climb in the back of the SWAT truck. Parents enjoyed taking pictures of their children wearing the gear.

"Everybody likes to come and see the SWAT guy," Jackson said, laughing.

Jackson said he enjoys the opportunity to show people what he does and answer any questions they may have.

"When we show up it's usually because things aren't too good. It's nice to interact with the kids and show them that we do have a personable side. We're not big, scary GI Joes or anything like that."

The event wasn't just a learning experience for children but for adults as well.

"The goal tonight is to create community-police partnerships," said Billy Hendrix, vice president of operations at Memorial Park Funeral Home and organizer of Gainesville National Night Out.

"If someone has a question about gangs or drugs or anything it's a great opportunity to come out and discuss that tonight."

Many organizations and vendors gave out information, toys, temporary tattoos and stickers. Target, the national sponsor of National Night Out, provided children and parents with free back-to-school items.

"I got a bookbag and some notebooks. We got plenty of chalk. We've had a good time," Sherette Jackson of Gainesville said while her son Xavier played on a fire truck.

Six-year old Alexia Plant of Gainesville showed off her temporary tattoo. She said she was having a lot of fun getting school supplies.

Jazmine Brown, Gainesville, stopped by on the way to her daughter's basketball practice. She said she was impressed by everything they were offering the children.

"It's helping out a lot as far as school supplies. It's helping an awful lot," Brown said.

Minerva Cota, has worked the event as a Target team leader for the last two years. Her favorite part is watching the children play on the helicopter and police cars. She admits she likes to see what the police officers have to say.

"There's a lot of interesting stuff that you can learn from them," Cota said.

This was the 28th annual National Night Out. Gainesville has been participating in the event for the last five years. Since its start the event has grown dramatically.

Almost 40 vendors attended the event this year as opposed to 10 last year.

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