National Night Out objectives are to:
- Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
- Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
- Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
- Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
However, as The History of NATW and National Night Out explains, NATW Executive Director Matt A. Peskin founded the annual police-community collaboration because "he noted that in a typical 'crime watch community', only 5 to 7% of the residents were participating actively. Due to the growth and success of these programs, he felt this percentage was too low. " Consequently, he felt that "a high-profile, high-impact type of crime event was needed nationally" to:
heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts. Subsequently, he proposed a national program which would be coordinated by local crime prevention agencies and organizations - but that would involve entire communities at one time. The first National Night Out was introduced early in 1984 - with the event culminating on the first Tuesday in August.
According to Mr. Peskin:
[National Night Out is] a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie. While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out does represent the kind of spirit, energy and determination that is helping to make many neighborhoods safer places throughout the year. It [NNO] is a night to celebrate crime prevention successes - and to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.
Well before nightfall, over 34 million North Americans will congregate in a demonstration of united strength and defiance of fear and violence. The History of NATW and National Night Out and National Night Out Photo Gallery document such daytime activities as "block parties, cookouts, parades, visits from police, festivals, neighborhood walks, safety fairs, contests, rallies and meetings." Then, starting at sundown, those activities will be supplemented with lights-on campaigns, front porch vigils and speak-outs.
Power outages have short-circuited lights-on activities in many neighborhoods hit by heat waves. All the more reason to grab torches and candles and take to the streets en masse - which makes a stronger statement than porch lights anyway.
Mr. Louis contends that today's rallies must focus on the serious subjects at hand if they are "going to rout the criminals and predators." I concur. He correctly assesses that family-friendly "feel-good measures" (such as health fairs), fun and games merely amuse perpetrators. I add that they blur distinctions between Nights Out Against Crime and festive family outings. Events focused on fanfare, refreshments and face paint (as Mr. Louis eloquently describes them), will not achieve the desired outcome: perpetrators "trembling in fear over what will be going on [...] today."
To be effective, National Night Out daytime events should feature impassioned speak-outs and workshops teaching self-defense, home security, gang-busting, organizing neighborhood watch groups, reducing domestic violence and other crime-prevention topics. Evening events should be more reminiscent of the annual Take Back the Night (a.k.a. Reclaim the Night) rallies that protest violence against women. [Access National Night Out resources, best practices and case studies, Wikipedia: Take Back the Night and Take Back the Night resources.]
Mr. Louis paints the appropriate picture in "One night must shed some light":
An angry nighttime march through the streets with torches and pitchforks would be more like what the situation calls for - something like the first Take Back the Night marches organized by women in Germany in 1973 after a string of rapes and assaults.
The idea of the marches, which came to the U.S. in 1978, was to have women boldly walk through darkened streets, chanting and blowing whistles to prove they would not succumb to fear.
New York needs that kind of spirit in our neighborhoods today.
- Apply for a 2006 National Night Out Award and read 2005 National Night Award Winners Announced!
- Register today to become a member of the National Association of Town Watch.
- Read the Community Watch Administration Manual by Thomas N. Monson (Editor) and The Citizen's Official Guide to Crime Prevention by Don E. Fletcher, et al. and other resources related to crime prevention, community/neighborhood watches and block groups.
- See how local communities celebrated National Night Out 2005 in the NNO Gallery.
- Get the latest from organizations whose focus is crime prevention.
- Participate in "Project 365" by registering a designated 'problem area' in your community and your plan to work toward resolving the problems by National Night Out 2007.
- Access additional recommendations made by Mr. Louis in "One night must shed some light." ###