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Albany police National Night Out heats up

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- The hottest thing at Albany's National Night Out wasn't the weather -- it was the sound laid down by D.J. Dennis Giddens.

Giddens had an ever-growing throng of dancers busting out doing the "Cha Cha Slide" at about 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Albany Civic Center parking lot.

The dancers took part in the Albany Police Department's annual National Night Out with hundreds of other people. Almost everyone enjoyed free hot dogs and burgers dished out by "Grillmaster" police Capt. Ryan Ward.

"We've been here since 1 p.m. to get everything right for the community," Ward said. "This is a big turnout. It is nice to be able to do something with the people who look out for us."

Besides food, music and fun, the event featured 50 bags filled with pens, composition books and other school supplies to be raffled away.

Standing in the long line waiting for her children to get Smelvyn and Friend's hand-knotted, purple or red or yellow balloon wristlets and hats, Shaneika Lewis said the night was fun.

"I really like it. It brings the community together," Lewis said. "I can get information on gangs and how to protect my family here, too."

New Jersey native Elfondrick Lumpkin also thought the event would help children's images of police officers.

"We need to strengthen our community and this is good for that," Lumpkin said. "It seems the kids only see police when there is trouble. This way the kids can relate to cops, talk to them and know them as people."

According to the website nationalnightout.org, the event's purpose is to:

* Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;

* Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;

* Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships;

* Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

The Hispanic community decided to organize after Santos Vicente, 19, was fatally shot at what was the Miscelanea Guate-Mex

convenience store on the 2100 block of Radium Springs Road on Dec. 17.

The committee formed by founders Eliana Alvarez and Juan Rangel doesn't have a name yet, but it had a table with information at the night out event.

"We started after Vicente was killed. We are trying to get permission from his family to use his name for the committee," Alvarez said. "We are here to help any Spanish-speaking people with understanding the authorities."

Anyone wishing more information on the committee can call Alvarez at (229) 994-2553 or Rangel at (229) 317-2734.