LAURINBURG — Scotland County law enforcement fanned out across downtown Laurinburg Tuesday night. But they were looking for dance partners rather than crooks.
The fun and games were part of the 32nd annual National Night Out, an event that focuses on bringing law enforcement and the community together in an effort to prevent crime. The nationwide event, which was established in 1984, is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. More than 16,000 communities participate each year on the first Tuesday in August.
The Laurinburg Police Department along with the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, Scotland County Probation and Parole, N.C. Wildlife, Scotland County EMS — before they had to leave on a call — and the State Highway Patrol teamed up to make Main Street the place to be..
“This is the way it needs to be,” said Sgt. Timothy Wilkerson, of the Laurinburg Police Department. “We want the citizens to know that you can walk up to an officer and have a civil conversation. We’re not the boogeyman. We’re here to protect and serve, that’s our job. We want people to see we are approachable. Just because we wear a gun and badge doesn’t mean we’re not approachable. We like to have fun just like everyone else.”
To keep the block party atmosphere going, the Glamour Athletics, Triple Toe Cloggers, Scotland High School Varsity Cheerleaders and Little Elvis all performed for the crowd at the intersection of Cronly and Main streets.
Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams wrangled his officers along with some of the teenagers in the Police Explorer program to have a dance off. Even with their uniforms and equipment on the Laurinburg police officers were able to bust a move.
Members of the Scotland High School “Fighting Scots” football team were also on hand with head coach Richard Bailey, who thanked local law enforcement for putting on the event and mentoring his players.
“We’ve had a number of the officers come and talk with our young men and guide them,” said Bailey. “I’m glad to see the Scotland County community coming out to support our law enforcement.”
Several downtown businesses also stayed open late and offered National Night Out discounts, including Scotland Bling, which is owned and operated by Chris English and his wife, Belinda.
“It’s a great feeling to see the community come together,” she said. “We try to support anything that happens downtown. We’ve been here two years and every year this event is big.”
Chris English is executive director for the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce and felt it was important to show local law enforcement support by staying open.
“This is a big event and brings a lot of people downtown,” he said. “We get people into the store who might not normally come in.”
Even though the goal of National Night Out is to bring law enforcement and citizens together to prevent crime, Sgt. Wilkerson said it’s more about trying to put the community back together.
“We can’t do it by ourselves it takes the whole community,” Sgt. Wilkerson said. “Even though we were a badge we still need the community, they’re our eyes, they’re our ears and you build that bond and have communication. This is the time for us to lay everything to the side and take those barriers and knock them down. It’s all for the community, it’s not about law enforcement or us as police officers, it’s about the community coming together.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.