Community takes stand against crime during National Night Out activities in Clarksdale, MS

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COAHOMA COUNTY, Miss. -- When it comes to crime fighting, can one night make a difference?

People in Clarksdale, Miss., believe it can, and they're sure National Night Out is the best way to get the message to criminals to stay out of their neighborhoods.

Activities were held at the Coahoma County Expo building in Clarksdale Tuesday night. but people started preparing for the event much earlier in the day.

"And where we have these lines drawn, these are our Neighborhood Watch," said Clarksdale resident Claudia Gooden.

Like a commanding general, Gooden used a huge map to show her strategy for fighting crime in Clarksdale and Coahoma County: neighborhood watch.

Gooden said the neighborhood watch program is a key element, but getting everyone on board is easier said than done.

"Now some of these neighborhoods, they have not been organized. And we do have violent crimes in there," said Gooden.

She co-chairs Clarksdale Senior Citizens For A More livable Community.

"And we're talking about a safe and clean and friendly community," said Gooden.

She and her friends showed up early Tuesday at the Coahoma County Expo building to set up for National Night Out.

Gooden's group is part of an AARP sponsored program called Real Possibilities, that empowers seniors to take a stand against crime.

Ivory Craig, associate director for AARP Mississippi, said most seniors are eager to do what they can.

"Many of our groups have actually had meetings with the police department, with the sheriff's department. 'Tell us exactly what you want us to do?' So, our seniors are anxious to take back their community," said Craig.

Gooden said she's willing to be just a little nosey to protect herself and her neighbors.

"Know who lives in front of them, know who lives behind them, know who lives beside them, know if they have children, what kind of car they drive," said Gooden.

Otis Griffin, chief deputy with the Coahoma County Sheriff's Department, said it's an event that helps people put a face and name with local law enforcement officers.

"To let them know that everybody is working together to fight crime," said Griffin.

This is the second year Coahoma County observed National Night Out.

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