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National Night Out ups crime awareness

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This week’s National Night Out turned out to be a profitable way to fight crime for some Spotsylvania County residents. 

One of the event exhibitors,, helped attendees apply to get back more than $16,000 of unclaimed funds that belong to them.

The group is a division of the Virginia Department of the Treasury, and staffers attended the event to inform residents of money or property that they may not have known they have. These funds could have come from uncashed checks, insurance proceeds or tangible property turned over from banks or other businesses.

That was just one of many popular and fun things to do in the area Tuesday for National Night Out.

Thousands of people in the Fredericksburg area stayed out for the annual crime prevention and community awareness initiative hosted by local law enforcement agencies and neighborhoods.

Several area localities reported their best turnout yet by offering free food and various activities such as dunking booths and karaoke.

Nearly 6,000 people attended Spotsylvania County’s big event at Classic Iron Motorcycles on U.S. 1. Activities put on by the Sheriff’s Office included K-9 and SWAT team demonstrations and a showcasing of the new equestrian police unit.

“There are more than 800 subdivisions in Spotsylvania, and our event was about bringing all the communities together,” said 1st Sgt. Shaun Jones of the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office.

Stafford County had 15 neighborhoods host their own “Night Out” events, along with a countywide event sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office at Stafford Marketplace.

Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy said altogether about 8,500 attended the events in Stafford this year.

A kids’ scavenger hunt, complete with prizes, was held for the first time at the Marketplace.

The Fredericksburg Police Department supported city communities in their Night Out efforts.

Heritage Park Apartments had at least 250 people come out and participate in its event.

“We do it every year and every year it gets better and better,” said Melissa Scott–Washington, who is the resident services coordinator for the complex off Fall Hill Avenue.

In Caroline, Sheriff Tony Lippa attended six community-hosted events in the rural county. He said the Caroline Pines community in Ruther Glen had a strong turnout for its first-ever Night Out event.

“We’re keeping it at a local level. It’s about the communities within the community,” Lippa said. “The message here is to get out and meet your neighbors.”

He is challenging the Dawn, Frog Level and Port Royal communities to host their own events next year.

National Night Out is held across the United States each year on the first Tuesday in August.

Last year, more than 37.8 million people in 16,242 communities across the country participated.

Now in its 31st year, the program aims to heighten crime-prevention awareness, generate support for neighborhood watches and strengthen neighborhood spirit.

But perhaps its most important goal is to send a message to criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are on guard.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419;