Retired cop to set up crime-fighting shop in Dumpster|[07/28/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2008

Doug Arp recently had some trouble remembering exactly how he last wired up an air conditioner to a Dumpster. It’s been years since he’s transformed a waste container into temporary housing, but the retired police officer said he’ll figure it out by Tuesday – the day he’ll climb in for a week-long stay.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Arp said. “It going to be a fun week.”

A motorcade of police cruisers, fire engines and a garbage truck will escort Arp from the Warren County Jail to the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department station at noon to kick off Arp’s stunt, aimed at raising awareness about National Night Out and crime prevention. He’ll emerge from the Dumpster on National Night Out the next Tuesday, when neighbors across the country are encouraged to meet each other via grill outs and block parties.

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When Arp retired from the Vicksburg Police Department in 2002 after 26 years, he also hung up his hat as the undisputed star of Vicksburg and Warren County’s annual National Night Out events.

For a decade beginning in 1992, Arp pulled off some of the quirkiest stunts imaginable each year to promote the event. Exemplifying his devotion to the cause, Arp used a week’s vacation from the department every year to spend 168 straight hours in locations and situations that most people wouldn’t put themselves in if they were paid to do it.

To helpDoug Arp and law enforcement agents will speak about crime prevention beginning Tuesday afternoon at the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department, 45 Freetown Road. Arp also welcomes phone calls during his week-long Dumpster stay. His phone number is 601-831-4969. He camped out on a billboard. He holed up in a phone booth. He waded in a fountain inside Pemberton Square mall. He remained in a covered pit in the ground, with just a head-sized hole in the top to communicate with his many visitors. His favorite ballyhoo, however, was taking up residence in a police cruiser hoisted 60 feet in the air by a crane. At the end of his week in the patrol car, he leaped out onto a giant air bag below.

“I don’t really think there is now – or has ever been – anybody quite like Doug,” said Matt Peskin, National Association of Town Watch executive director and the creator of National Night Out. “He has his own unique niche in the 25-year history of National Night Out.”

Arp’s exploits have garnered him a half dozen National Night Out awards and media coverage from every outlet, including radio shows to nightly news spots. One year, ABC’s “Good Morning America” sent a crew to Vicksburg for an interview.

Most everyone asks Arp the same question: “Why?”

“Nowadays neighbors don’t know each other like they used to, and most of them couldn’t care less,” said Arp. “This is a fun way to get people to meet each other and look after one another. The police can’t do it all, and everyone needs to take some responsibility to know our neighbors and help them out.”

His exit from National Night Out retirement this year will mark the second time Arp has spent a week in a Dumpster to promote crime prevention, and he said it’s much more cozy than people assume.

“With the air conditioner it gets cold in that sucker,” he laughed. “Really, I wouldn’t mind staying in there permanently. A lot of nice people are always stopping by and bringing me some really good food.”

NATW, a nonprofit crime prevention organization that works in cooperation with thousands of crime watch groups and law enforcement agencies throughout the country, held it’s first National Night Out in 1984. About 400 communities in 23 states participated. This year, 10,500 communities in all 50 states are expected to participate, as well as communities in U.S. territories, Canada and U.S. military bases worldwide.

“It is achieving the things it was laid out to do, and Doug has definitely had a hand in that,” said Peskin. “I’m glad to see he’s back at it.”