Join Your Neighbors for National Night OutJul 23, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine
Oh What A Night!
Story by Natalie Caudle
Communities across the nation are joining together to take back their neighborhoods and stand up to crime. For the last 36 years, the first Tuesday night in August has been dedicated to neighbors and law enforcement joining forces as communities promote safer and more caring environments.
National Night Out began in 1984 from the efforts of a community activist and law enforcement liaison, Matt Peskin. Having volunteered with law enforcement in Philadelphia since 1970, Peskin had learned the needs of communities and the necessity of neighbors taking an ownership over their streets and standing up to crime. In 1981, Peskin established Town Watch, encouraging citizens to watch for and report crimes. Despite the great progress in reaching and encouraging community members to take an active stance, Peskin desired to see a greater partnership between neighborhoods and law enforcement. Police needed to come into communities for positive reasons and show neighborhoods that they were their allies. Three years after establishing Town Watch, the first National Night Out was held. Neighbors took a stance by turning on their porch lights and spending the evening sitting in front of their homes. The stance was simple, but the statement was strong and the message quickly spread.
Each community across the nation chooses how to mark the night. Not only do neighborhoods vary within a city, the dynamics of community and police interaction vary greatly across the states. While some communities enjoy a tight-knit relationship with law enforcement, other neighborhoods have faced strained relationships throughout the decades. According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, only 35.8 percent of people feel that the police are a part of their neighborhood, while 30.1 percent feel they can personally trust the police. The efforts of National Night Out are especially important to those communities where a partnership between neighbors and the police department have been weakened. National Night Out offers communities a unique opportunity to build relationships with law enforcement.
This year, 36 million neighbors are expected to participate in National Night Out. There are 336 cities participating in California alone, many of them in the Valley. From Fresno to Lemoore to Exeter to Porterville, events and festivities will bridge the efforts of communities and law enforcement. The fun will take place on the evening of August 6.
In the Valley, each town participates in the evening with a unique style. Visalia neighborhoods have participated in National Night Out with festivities reminiscent of decades past, when neighbors gathered together to eat and share stories in an effort to create genuine friendship and community. Participation was easy, neighborhoods registered with the city as an official National Night Out celebration spot and neighbors hosted barbecues, ice cream socials, potlucks and block parties. In 2018, due to the extreme summer weather in the Central Valley, Visalia moved its National Night Out to October. Neighbors met at Oval Park and enjoyed tacos, root beer floats, SWAT and K-9 demonstrations and opportunities to meet the local members of the California Highway Patrol, bomb squad and police and fire departments.
Fresno participates in the evening in a similar manner, with each policing district hosting an event filled with vendors, free food and fun games for the kids. The Central District encourages neighbors to head to the Manchester Center where Officer Bunch promises “an all-around good time” for the community.
Despite soaring temperatures, Hanford is planning to beat the heat and is gearing up for activities with the rest of the nation on August 6. Last year, the City of Hanford and the Police Department joined forces at Civic Park offering free food, fire truck and carousel rides, bounce houses and opportunities for fun interactions between law enforcement and community members; 2019 aims to prove just as fun.
Not far up the road in the City of Lemoore, the police department will host a night of food and fun at Heritage Park on Hanford-Armona Road. Lemoore has seen a reduction in crime and fear due to the efforts of community policing. The concept of community policing requires fresh practices by law enforcement and committed citizen involvement. Lemoore Police Department has taken great steps in partnering with the community through surveys, conversations with residents and community meetings. The health of the city continues to improve as law enforcement better understands the various needs of the local neighborhoods and residents actively work with police officers. Neighborhoods and communities across the valley floor are joining together and standing up to crime.
The eastern part of Tulare County will celebrate with neighbors, as well. Exeter is known for its fun and enticing dunk tank, music, games, a bike course and an appearance by Officer Nitro.
Porterville will participate in the evening with similar activities, providing a gathering for the community with free barbecued hot dogs and games. The Porterville Police Department expects a turnout of 500 people. Officer Steve Walker, who has served as the department’s Community Service Officer and chaplain for the last 20 years, says he enjoys “seeing all the community come together and have a great time.” He also encourages neighbors who aren’t able to attend the official Porterville event, “We are serious about preventing crime. If you aren’t able to attend, do something with your own neighbors.”
Fighting crime isn’t just for the superheroes; every member of the community has an opportunity to stand up for peace and take back their neighborhood. National Night Out is more than an evening of hamburgers and potato salad; it is an evening where friendships are created and communities unite. •
National Night Out • NATW.org
Contact your local city police department or visit