Head out for NNO

Published 8:03 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

Today, more than 50 neighborhoods, businesses and churches will gather in the evening for parades, block parties, outdoor movies and more to celebrate National Night Out.

There will be a kickoff ceremony in Hall Place; “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the big screen in Holland; catered food in Chuckatuck; an open mic at the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority; and lots, lots more throughout the city.

But National Night Out is far more than just the great food, snow cones and group performances that have earned it a place of honor on the calendar on the first Tuesday in August. It’s not about homemade ice cream, hot dogs from the grill, bounce houses or musical performances, although all those things make it so much better.

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National Night Out, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, is a nationwide program that encourages residents and public safety officials to come together and present a united front against crime — by turning their porch lights on, stepping outside, locking their doors and letting the criminals know they’re not welcome.

Last year, more than 15,000 municipalities in all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide, participated in National Night Out, equaling more than 37 million people.

Thousands of those people participated here in Suffolk, where the city brought home the third-place award from throughout the nation for its population category, based on a video and notebook submission about the event. The city had earned the first-place award in 2009 and 2008 and hopes to bring that trophy back to Suffolk this year.

But even the award, like the food and snow cones, is not the important part of National Night Out. What’s important is that people get outside, get to know their neighbors, meet public safety officials on a good occasion and present a united front against crime.

The theory goes that if criminals see hundreds of neighbors outside, getting to know each other, the bad guys likely will move on to another place.

If you don’t know where to go tonight to participate, check out the website at www.suffolknno.org or see the special section we published on Friday and Sunday. If you already have plans away from your neighborhood, leave your porch lights on as a show of solidarity.

If history repeats itself, today will surely be the hottest day of the year here in Suffolk, so grab some water and go get to know your neighbors. Together, we can use National Night Out as a way to combat crime.