Night Out communities send a message

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For most folks, a night out involves a trip to the movies, dinner with a significant other, perhaps the services of a babysitter. For a group of people in Suffolk, though, the term “Night Out” has an entirely different set of connotations.

For those involved with Suffolk’s celebration of the National Night Out — whether as organizers or as participants — Tuesday marked the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and countless hours of hard work.

The event represents a “night out” in the obvious sense that participants spent time outside Tuesday night, enjoying entertainment in their own neighborhoods with friends, neighbors and family members. In reality, though, the dinners and cloggers and games were all secondary to the task of making a statement: Suffolk is NOT open for business, when it comes to crime.

“We all must let the criminals know that we have all joined together” to fight crime in Suffolk, Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson told a group gathered at the new downtown police headquarters for the National Night Out kickoff ceremony in the sweltering heat late Tuesday afternoon.

That was the key for this particular night out. Communities throughout the city on Tuesday bonded together toward the goal of throwing a “going-away party” for crime in Suffolk.

It’s clear that keeping a community safe from crime cannot be considered the responsibility of any one group of people — whether that group is the residents of the community or the police. Instead, what’s really effective in fighting crime is when law enforcement agencies are joined by community organizations and citizens, all of whom share a stake in — and recognize their responsibility for creating — crime-free communities.

To the extent that the National Night Out is successful in promoting such partnerships and in sending the message to gangs and other criminals that their influence will not be tolerated in Suffolk, Tuesday’s programs throughout the city are worthy of replication more than just once a year.

If such events as the National Night Out can help people in Suffolk begin to feel safer, it’s a good bet that they’ll begin having more of their own personal nights out. And that’s good for everybody.