In 1984, National Night Out – "America's Night Out Against Crime" – began as a way to promote crime prevention through neighborhood camaraderie.
Since then, according to the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the annual event has taken root in tens of thousands of communities across the country, with more than 37 million people taking part in block parties, barbecues, parades, marches and more. It's all about sending a message to criminals: Our neighborhood is organized, and crime is not welcome here.
On the first Tuesday of August (or possibly October), you can join the millions who are committed to making their communities safer by taking part in an existing event or planning your own. Even if you only attend a gathering, you're still playing a part.
Planning a National Night Out event
If your area has a neighborhood watch program, check to see if there's an event already planned. If so, the organizers will be happy to have your support.
If there's nothing in the works and you want to host your own, decide what's appropriate for your neighborhood (and manageable for you). Maybe it's a small ice-cream social or a big barbecue. The possibilities are endless. And be sure to visit your city's website or Facebook page; many municipalities offer assistance in setting up an event. Some will even arrange to have law-enforcement representatives stop by.
NATW, the organization that started National Night Out, has great resources as well. When you register your event at natw.org, you'll receive an official organizational kit with guidelines and suggestions.
Of course, you can have an event without registering or checking in with your city. Getting people together and focusing on making your community safer is what's important.
Quick tips for all National Night Out parties
- Give your guests as much notice as possible.
- Have name tags for neighbors to fill out and wear; 67 percent of homeowners in a study by Nextdoor and Harris Interactive said knowing their neighbors helps them feel safer.
- Briefly explain the purpose of National Night Out and promote neighborhood watch basics, such as reporting suspicious activity to the police.
- Gather addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of neighbors, and, with their consent, provide a list to everyone later.
Finally, remember to have fun! Yes, the safety aspect of National Night Out is important, but it's just as vital to get to know your neighbors better and enjoy their company. After all, that's what building a stronger community is all about.
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