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Texas to have alternative date for Night Out Against Crime

Monday, July 14, 2008 by Mark Richardson

America’s Night Out Against Crime, a gathering of neighbors to promote safety and unity, is celebrating its 25th year on August 5 as thousands of Americans will gather for block parties everywhere around the country. Everywhere, that is, but Texas.

 

Officials in Texas have asked for and received permission to move the annual event to October this year in hopes of getting more people in the Lone Star State to participate. And Austin will be no exception.

 

Rosie Salinas, Community Liaison Officer for the Austin Police Department, said America’s Night Out is a great opportunity for neighborhoods to interact with local public safety officers.

 

“Events are planned to promote crime prevention and drug prevention awareness and to strengthen the police – community partnership,” she said. “We encourage neighborhoods to come together and send the message that we are all working together to prevent crime and keep our neighborhoods safe. On October 7, residents are asked to turn on their porch lights, lock their doors and spend the evening outside with their neighbors, police officers, EMS, and fire fighters.”

 

Mike Clowdus, a Crime Prevention Officer with the Pflugerville Police Department, is the state coordinator of the program in Texas. He said the problem in Texas is the August heat.

 

“For the last few years, we have talked about changing the date,” he said. “This is kind of a test year. Talking to the citizens, a lot of them have told us that if weren’t so hot, they’d come out and be more involved. We have heard from a lot of our senior citizens especially—the heat is so bad they just don’t want to get out into it. So we feel like we will have a better turnout in October.”

 

Clowdus said if the October date in Texas is successful, it could spread to other states.

 

“The National Night Out Association in Pennsylvania has allowed Texas to hold its America’s Night Out on October the 7th this year,” he said. “If it is successful and if we do well, what they are looking at is perhaps having two America’s Night Out dates, the first Tuesday in August and the first Tuesday in October every year for states to have a choice. I’m sure a lot of the other Southern states have had problems with the heat, too.”

 

APD’s Salinas said it is also a really good excuse for a block party.

 

“Events in the past have included cookouts, block parties, parades, flashlight walks, contests, and youth activities,” she said. “You are limited only by your imagination. If you register your party, you may receive a visit from public safety officials. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee a visit by police, fire or EMS because we typically have over 400 registered parties.”

 

National Night Out’s “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” was introduced by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984. The program was the brainchild of NATW Executive Director Matt A. Peskin. In an effort to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts, Peskin felt that a high profile, high-impact type of crime prevention event was needed nationally.

 

Salinas said Texas has been a leader in the program for many years.

 

“For the past 13 years, Texas had led the nation in citizen and police involvement,” she said. “Participation in the Austin area ‘Night Out’ will show neighborhood strength, increase the police officer-citizen bond and help to make our community a safer place to live.”

 

For your neighborhood or civic group to  officially participate in National Night Out events, Salinas said they must complete the National Night Out Application  and return it to the address on the form. For more information, contact Salinas at 974-4900 or by e-mail at nno@ci.austin.tx.us.

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