Thomson, G.A. (WJBF) - People of all ages came out on Saturday to strengthen their relationship with law enforcement and among themselves in an area where we have seen a spike in gang violence. Not only was this an event to unify a community, but people were also given the chance to join a neighborhood watch program.
"McDuffie County is a safe place, we're a great place but we have had some issues in the past with some violence so we're just coming together on national night out to just bridge the gap, cease the violence bring back the harmony," said volunteer Chikita Hill.
Harmony was the best way to describe the national night out event in Thomson, a community recently rocked with violence.
NewsChannel 6 confirmed from the police chief that 10 drive-by shootings and two homicides this summer were part of gang issues. A lot that crime took place near the local Boys & Girls Club.
"It makes you fearful sometimes to raise kids in an environment like this. When it hits close to home or it's right around the corner from your home it's fearful sometimes," said Boys & Girls Club Director Tunishia Hymes.
National night out was another effort to show kids there is another way other than a life of violence.
"My goal is to let these kids know you don't have to suffer in silence and the streets is not the answer and you can come see me any day at the Boys & Girls club," explained Hill.
The event was not the beginning of Thomson's fight against the spike in violence. This week Candido Wilson began putting up white crosses with local kids in remembrance of their brothers and sisters they lost to street violence. A violence that can't be easy for the kids who live in the community to understand.
"My 7-year-old came up to me while we were painting the crosses and I was telling him, explaining to him what these crosses meant. He got very emotional and he asked me "momma why are these things happening?" I told him because there's someone who really thinks they're badder than someone else and they feel like they can do whatever," said Hill.
Although there is a silver lining to the violence, it has sparked a fire within the community to unify and start a neighborhood watch.
"Our goal with the neighborhood watch is just to get everybody involved so that we can watch our communities and report crimes before they escalate into something bigger and to make this a safe haven for our children," remarked Hill.
Fortunately for the people in McDuffie County, their future is bright.
"I'm really happy to see this. You know you hear of other counties and hear of the support they have and it's very vague to have something this going on here so I think this a great start to stop a lot of the violence that we have been experiencing here," said Hymes.
If you would like to get involved in the neighborhood watch in Thomson call the housing authority at (706) 595-4878.
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