What Is National Night Out?

Police officers give kids tips about staying safe in their communities at a National Night Out event.

The first Tuesday of every August, communities across the nation participate in a special event called National Night Out. The event started in 1984. Matt Peskin, a young man in Philadelphia, launched a new crime prevention program. He wanted people to gather in the streets one summer night each year, celebrating their power to control events in their own communities.

National Night Out was developed to prevent crime by building partnerships between community members and police departments. At a National Night Out event, you might find block parties, cookouts, parades, contests, activities for kids, and educational events. In 1984, 2.5 million people in 400 communities participated in National Night Out. By 2016, the event had grown to 32 million people in 16,000 communities across the U.S.

Communities hold events of all sizes! The South Central Hilltop Block Watch in Columbus, Ohio, organizes one of the largest National Nights Out. It includes live music, food, and entertainment. Neighborhoods such as Sycamore Senior Village in California have live music, dancing, and visits by police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics. They hold safety demonstrations and exhibits, too.

Law enforcement and public safety agencies aren’t the only groups involved in National Night out programs. Businesses, churches, city agencies, and news media often come together to share the goal of a safer community.

Many people who participate in National Night Out feel more comfortable contacting law enforcement officials after the events. They feel safer in their communities because they have met so many of their neighbors. These events encourage citizens to become more involved in crime prevention. They give community residents and police officers the chance to commit to working together. Many of the events have led to programs that last all year round, not just on the one night of community celebration. So, these events have a long-lasting effect on public safety.

What Do You Think? How do you think National Night Out helps communities? What other things do you think you can do to make your community safer?

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