ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER STUNT Arp using hot air in his crime fight

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 17, 2011

Different is a word that perfectly describes retired police officer Doug Arp and his annual stunts that draw attention to crime prevention in Vicksburg. For the past 19 years, Arp has spent one week each summer living in strange places, such as on a billboard, in a fountain at the mall or his favorite stunt, in a police cruiser hoisted 60 feet in the air.

This year, however, Arp will not be stationed in one place for seven days, he’ll be traveling around Vicksburg in a hot air balloon basket anchored in the back of a truck spreading the word about stopping crime. He will begin his tour on July 25 and continue through the day of National Night Out, Aug. 1.

The week of his tour, Arp will be spend his nights at the Culkin Fire Department with the hot air balloon. His theme this year is giving “Crime and Drugs a Going Away Party.”

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“I do something different every year,” Arp said. “This is something neat, I’ve never moved around before and this will give me an opportunity to go to different places.”

Since its start in Vicksburg in 1992, National Night Out has been a success, said Matt Peskin, creator and director of the national event.

“Most people advertise the event with newspaper ads, billboards or radio announcements, but Vicksburg has Doug Arp,” Peskin said. “And it certainly has grown.”

Monday at 10 a.m., Arp will be at Warren Central High School with his hot air balloon and with the right weather conditions, he hopes to give balloon rides to visitors for a day of “Give Flight to Crime.”

Arp’s stunts are aimed at promoting National Night Out, an annual event in which residents have the opportunity to meet their law enforcement officials and each other.

The Vicksburg Police Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department are working together this year in preparation for National Night Out.

Cookouts and barbecues will take place across Vicksburg, giving residents the chance to get acquainted with their neighbors and learn a little more about crime and drug prevention.

“If neighbors watch out for each other, you feel safer,” said Angela Turner, a community resource officer with the VPD. “This day and age people don’t even know their neighbors, this is a way they can get to know each other.”

Arp agrees and said that the point of his antics is to attract attention to crime and drug prevention.

“Some people may not agree with the way I do it, but it will make people think about it,” Arp said. “That’s all I want to do.”

Turner said that Arp’s stunts do, in fact, attract the attention of the community.

“Once you have a person’s attention, you can give them the information they need,” Turner said. “He’s very passionate about what he does and I admire him for it. He just wants to help the community.”

“The whole theme is the more people you know, the more people that’ll help you,” Arp said. “It’s good to know people and the only time you meet a cop, you’re getting a ticket or your house has been broken into. That’s not a good way to make a friendship. We want people to meet in a friendly way.”