Keep National Night Out going all year

Published 9:35 pm Monday, August 13, 2012

Last Tuesday, thousands of people throughout Suffolk got together with their neighbors in celebration of National Night Out.

The annual crime-fighting and partnership-building event is held the first Tuesday every August, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The idea is to get folks outdoors, getting to know their neighbors and presenting a united front against crime to the would-be criminals who may be watching.

In most of the 40-50 neighborhoods that participate in Suffolk each year, the event takes the form of flashlight parades, cookouts, children’s games, music and similar activities. In recent years, outdoor movies have become popular at several locations.

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Although it’s usually one of the hottest nights of the year, it didn’t quite reach that mark this year. A thunderstorm did dump some rain on quite a few of the celebrations, but it was short-lived in most of the locations and neighbors soon got back to grilling, eating and getting to know one another.

National Night Out is always one of my favorite annual events to cover because it exemplifies what neighborhoods are supposed to be about in a simple crime-fighting tool. In these days when, thanks to Facebook, we’re more likely to know that guy we met at a friend’s wedding last year better than we know our neighbors, a designated night to get together, get to know each other and discuss community issues might be just what some neighborhoods need to jump-start taking control of their communities.

However, I would encourage communities not to let the benefits of National Night Out last just for one night. If you talked about issues that need to be resolved, follow up with the proper authorities that can help you or form your own task force to do it at the grassroots level. If you got to know an elderly neighbor, make sure to visit every once in a while to check on them. If you met children in the neighborhood, make sure to remember their names, be a role model for them and don’t be afraid to speak up when you see them doing something they shouldn’t. If you hear about a rash of break-ins that have been happening lately, be extra vigilant and call 911 if you see anything that looks out of place.

This is the focus of Suffolk’s Project 365, an initiative of National Night Out that aims to keep it going all year long. This year’s theme is “Investing in the Safety of Our Communities is in Everyone’s Best Interest.”

For more information about National Night Out, visit Next year’s event is Aug. 6, so be sure to mark your calendars.