Police officers drive neighborhoods, often looking for situations or things that "just don't look right." National Night Out (NNO), being observed Oct. 2. for the 29th year, spotlights how neighbors can help neighbors do the same. Some communities observed the night on the alternative date of Aug. 7.
Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, NNO was initiated so neighbors within communities, subdivisions or streets could show co-solidarity against crime in local areas. The observance also provides opportunities to strengthen neighborhood spirit and communication between police and the citizens they serve.
St. Louis County police officers ask residents to consider the following questions to ensure a more vigilant approach to local, overall safety:
- Do you make sure to always lock your home?
- Do you always close your garage door?
- Do you ensure that vehicles parked outside also are locked?
- Do you leave porch lights on?
- Do you use timers or interior lights in your home to keep a well-lit environment?
- Do you ask neighbors and police to keep an eye on your residence when you are out of town?
- Do you or someone you know watch the closest bus stop while children are waiting there?
Neighborhoods "celebrate" NNO with a variety of events and activities, such as:
- block parties
- visits from local police and sheriff departments
- flashlight walks
- contests, and
- youth programs.
"The event serves as a visible reminder to would-be criminals that law-abiding citizens and police are united in their efforts to reduce crime," stated St. Louis County Chief Tim Fitch in a news release about the commitment to NNO from the St. Louis Area Police Chief’s Association.
"Like Neighborhood Watch, this event presents a great opportunity for all neighbors to introduce themselves to each other and to the men and women who serve and protect them."
Neighborhood police officers in each of St. Louis County's seven precincts, along with officers assigned to contracting municipalities, will participate in Tuesday's neighborhood block meetings, park parties and walks throughout the area. Officers will speak to residents on specific areas of crime prevention tailored to their individual areas, as well as general topics, such as child safety, elderly abuse, firearm safety and school-related tips.
"This effort can start with one street," said Neighborhood Police Officer Jamie Reiter, who is based at St. Louis County Police Department-Wildwood Precinct. She said Wildwood currently has 11 active Neighborhood Watch groups, among 250-plus different subdivisions. She said it is imperative for everyone to take measures to try not to become victims.
Reiter said NNO is a good time to talk to children about safety, stranger danger, choice of friends and places they can or cannot go. "It's also an opportunity to get your neighbors' contact numbers and tell one another what you would like to be alerted about," she said.
Last year's National Night Out campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from more than 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide. In all, 37 million-plus people participated in National Night Out 2011.