Tuesday night was National Night Out, a night where citizens and police unite to break down barriers in the community and work together to combat crime in their neighborhoods. This year marked 31 years since the event first began. Events took place in communities across the entire country, U.S. territories, U.S. military bases and parts of Canada.
In Salem, Oregon, over 140 different block parties were organized to mark the event. Twenty-two law enforcement teams appeared at these events to mingle with the community and strengthen alliances. Lieutenant Dave Okada with the Salem Police Department stressed the importance of connecting with neighbors. The better you know your neighbors, he says, “The safer you are.”
San Francisco and surrounding communities in the Bay Area celebrated National Night Out as well. The city of Oakland hosted more than 600 block parties alone where 35,000 people attended. The events are especially important in San Jose, where decreased city funding has resulted in the downsizing of its police department. Crime is on the rise in San Jose and on the minds of many in the community. Coming together as a community to combat crime at an event such as this is especially important, according to residents.
National Night Out events began in 1984 as a way for communities to send a message to potential criminals that their neighborhood was tough on crime. Community members would send this message by sitting on their porches and turning on their front lights. The National Night Out program involves people and police uniting as a community in order to deliver this message to potential criminals. They usually meet in parks and community centers, where police and residents discuss topics such as safety and crime prevention.
One of the most popular attractions in Dover, Delaware, is the K9 Unit demonstration. Police Spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman says, “Everybody loves to see the dogs.” In many communities, police enlist the participation of other emergency responders such as emergency medical technicians and fire departments. Several local churches often participate by ringing church bells during the events.
The city of Jacksonsville, Florida, draws over 12,000 people to events spread throughout the city. Jacksonville Police Officer, Beth Purcell, expected even more people this year for the city’s 17th annual bash. She also says National Night Out annual events draw larger crowds than any other community event hosted in the area.
The Baltimore community of Waverly decided to use the night to host a vigil for a local toddler who lost his life due to gunfire. Three-year-old McKenzie Elliot was killed Friday while playing on a front porch in the community.
The first Tuesday of every August, nearly 38 million people across the U.S. and parts of Canada participate in National Night Out events. These events unite local police departments with the people they serve. For those unable to attend events, many Home Depot and Lowe’s stores offered free light bulbs so people can participate from their front porches, just as they did 31 years ago.
By Stacey Wagner