A Fairfield, California, police officer poses next to a roasted pig that was served during their community event on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Fairfield, CA Police Department/Twitter.
What started as an evening observance 38 years ago has become a season, with law enforcement agencies nationwide celebrating National Night Out this week by reaching out to their local communities.
It all kicked off on Tuesday, Aug. 2, and by the weekend, departments in more than 16,000 towns and cities will have taken a night to discuss with neighbors how to make their communities safer.
Police in Fairfield, California, held a pig roast. Cops in Cambridge, Massachusetts, played cornhole.
That’s a long way from how it all began in 1984, when people in roughly 400 communities turned on their front lights and sat on porches to show support for law enforcement, according to Matt Peskin, the founder of both National Night Out and the National Association of Town Watch.
“What happens is you start to establish relationships, and those relationships are the things that make neighborhoods safer places,” Peskin told Coffee or Die Magazine. “So it's an event that encourages people to come out of their homes and be part of the community as opposed to being inside, which is really where criminals want you to be.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cleveland, Ohio, field office let kids try on their tactical gear at one of Cleveland's recreation centers Tuesday night during their week long National Night Out celebration. Photo courtesy of the FBI Cleveland, Ohio, Field Office/Twitter.
Peskin launched the National Association of Town Watch in 1981 to spur neighbors to unite in the fight against crime. National Night Out came from the movement and kept growing nationwide until the past two years, when the global COVID-19 pandemic nixed gatherings.
Cities nationwide also reeled from demonstrations and riots that erupted in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
But Luther Krueger, a crime-prevention analyst at the Minneapolis Police Department, told Coffee or Die National Night Out was still pretty popular there. He’s participated in the event since 1992 and points to what he calls “block clubs” for bringing citizens together to battle crime.
Krueger said Minneapolis listed roughly 4,000 blocks across the city, and nearly 80% of the blocks have a designated block leader. And to him, their presence helps boot loiterers out of neighborhoods and tells drug dealers that someone is watching, and that cuts crime.
“And for Minneapolis — especially these last three years with the pandemic and with the Floyd murder — it's just been critical to say, ‘You know, we get it; there are problems, but nothing should keep us from networking. Nothing should keep us from looking out for our neighbors, and just keep the communication going,’” he said.
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Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.
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