Arp winds down 2009 stunt, looks to Tuesday|Retired cop has been living near cement truck at Culkin fire station

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 2, 2009

Whether it’s getting a chance to dunk ticket-writing patrolmen or visit a retired police sergeant living near a cement truck, Vicksburg and Warren County residents will have their choice as the annual National Night Out is observed locally Tuesday.

Four Vickburg police officers will be taking turns in the dunking seat at City Park Pavilion beginning at 5 p.m.

Lt. Bobby Stewart, chief of investigations, will join patrolmen Bobby Jones, Eric Paymon and L.J. Peters in giving residents a chance to get some all-in-fun revenge.

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“They write a lot of tickets,” noted co-coordinators Pam Freeman, the department’s computer specialist, and Lois Roby, procurement clerk. “Bobby Jones probably writes more than everybody else put together.” That could tempt many residents to come out for the event, the women laughed.

Out in Warren County, retired police Sgt. Doug Arp has spent much of the last week camped out next to a cement truck at the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department in his annual gimmick promoting National Night Out.

Local law enforcement officials introduced the day in 1992, Arp said, to encourage neighbors to get to know each other and look out for one another’s children, homes and property. National Night Out organizers want neighbors to have cookouts and other family-oriented activities on their blocks and streets.

“The whole idea is to meet more people,” Arp said. “It takes people meeting people, knowing who lives next door to you, to know when something’s not right — a truck’s in a neighbor’s driveway that doesn’t belong there, or there are kids where they shouldn’t be, and things like that.”

Arp comes up with a different theme each year to publicize the event. This year, he chose “Don’t Let Crime Put Your Neighborhood in Concrete Shoes.”

In addition, there is a community policing aspect to Night Out activities.

“We want to give the community some knowledge about crime, but also get them familiar with our officers in a friendly setting,” Roby said. The city will have 15 officers on hand at its City Park festivities and some community volunteers, as well. “It’s big every year. A lot of people come out.”

Among VPD officers will be Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon, who said he’s looking forward to manning the barbecue grills again, his eighth year flipping burgers and hot dogs.

Kids activities will include a space jump and games, and Roby and Freeman have organized door prizes, drawings and a group walk along Drummond Street from the park to Bowmar Avenue and back.

“Its just a fun day for the kids and for the whole family,” Freeman said.

The city of Vicksburg pitched in with $2,000, which Freeman and Roby used to buy back-to-school supplies. They have put together 150 sets to give away — sets that include book bags, binders, pens, paper and other items kids need for classes, which begin Tuesday for the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Everyone who attends will get a ticket — not the kind the Vicksburg police normally give out — to participate in the prize drawing. Scooters, barbecue grills, meals and other prize items have been donated by local stores, restaurants and casinos. The first 75 walk participants will get a free National Night Out t-shirt.

MuGruff the Crime Dog will also be there, courtesy of new police recruit Kevin Rushing, Roby said. AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers will man a table, Channel 23 will videotape and WRTM radio will do a live remote.

When he was a Vicksburg police officer, Doug Arp used vacation days each year to promote National Night Out awareness and participation, living for a week in odd and outrageous places.

Except for taking a few years off, in retirement he’s continued at county locations, such as such as his current cement truck set-up which has offered minimal shelter during the week’s thunderstorms and heavy rains. Meals and food are brought by friends and visitors, and he’s been able to use shower and other facilities at the fire station when necessary.

“The bugs haven’t been too bad,” he said. “What’s been bad are the doggone flies.”

And the rain. “I’ve been here four days, and it’s rained 12 times so far,” he said Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon he updated the total to 14 times — then another storm passed through.

Arp has received 14 national awards for his promoting community crime awareness through the annual event. Last year, Arp spent the week before National Night Out living in a garbage dumpster at the Culkin fire department. Other promotional exploits have included living in a car craned 60 feet into the air; wearing a wet suit and living in the former fountain at the Pemberton Square Mall; and living in a hole in the ground.

“Next year, I’m thinking about living in a hearse,” he said. “The theme would be ‘Don’t Let Crime Bury Your Neighborhood.’”


Contact Pamela Hitchins at