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'NIGHT OUT AGAINST CRIME' ATTRACTS HUNDREDS

Aug. 6, 2003 – Hundreds of children and adults marched from Eulalie Rivera School to Issac Boynes Ballpark in Estate Grove Place on Tuesday evening, marking the 17th annual celebration of National Night Out Against Crime and Drugs on St. Croix.
On St. Thomas, a similar event was held at Tutu Park Mall on Tuesday, and St. John's observance is set for Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. in Cruz Bay Park.
Wearing official Night Out T-shirts and carrying hand-written signs with anti-drug slogans such as "Leave Me Be, I'm Drug Free," the St. Croix marchers were accompanied by McGruff the Crime Dog, police bicycle patrol officers, V.I. National Guard units, fire trucks and representatives of other community-minded groups.
National Night Out is an annual crime- and drug-prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. It's aimed at:
– Raising crime- and drug-prevention awareness.
– Generating support for and participation in local anti-crime programs.
– Strengthening neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.
– Sending a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back
The St. Croix program was sponsored in part by the Grove Place Weed and Seed organization.
Weed and Seed is a national initiative of the U.S. Justice Department serving children and youths. Its purpose is to "weed out" drug trafficking, violent crimes and related offenses through coordinated law enforcement and community policing, and then "seed" the target areas with prevention, intervention and treatment programs designed to meet communities' needs for educational scholarships, training, mentoring programs and employment opportunities.
A rally in the recreational area of the ballpark followed the march. Sgt. Thomas Hannah, Police Department spokesman, read Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's proclamation of V.I. Night Out Week. Then Denise E.H. Lewis, event coordinator, introduced guest speaker Luz Maldonado.
Maldonado, a former Grove Place resident and a former drug addict, is currently employed by The Village/Partners In Recovery in Frederiksted.
She chronicled her history of drug abuse, which started at the age of 15. Now 43, she has been drug-free for nine years, she told the group. "Bad things happen when you use drugs," she said, explaining that she tells her story unashamed hoping to serve as a "power of example" to those who are involved in drugs and are searching for a way out.
Maldonado's advice concerning using drugs was simple and certain: "If you haven't started, don't start. And if you have started, get help."
Phranchize Band and D.J. Hatma provided musical entertainment for the rally. AT&T of the Virgin Islands, Cingular Wireless, Frontline Systems, Interscope Security, Knight Quality Stations and The West Indian Co. were corporate sponsors of the program.

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