Police-community partnerships will be in the spotlight on Tuesday, August 1, as residents from across the District of Columbia join with their neighbors, police officers and other public officials in celebrating the 23rd annual National Night Out against crime.
Police and residents in all seven police districts will be holding block parties, neighborhood walks, community vigils, cookouts, softball games and other crime prevention events -- all designed to show the community's solidarity against crime and their commitment to work together for safer neighborhoods, especially during the District's current "crime emergency."
"This year's National Night Out celebration takes on an added urgency, given that it comes during the crime emergency I declared earlier this month," said Chief of Police Charles H. Ramsey. "Now more than ever, it is critically important for residents to get out and get involved in neighborhood safety -- on National Night Out and on every day and night of the year," he said.
After declining over the past several years, serious crime in the District rose by nearly 4 percent during the first six months of 2006, according to preliminary statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department. More recently, neighborhoods across the city have experienced spikes in robberies, assaults with a deadly weapon and homicides; in many cases, these crimes have involved juvenile victims and offenders. These trends prompted Chief Ramsey to declare the crime emergency, which dedicates more resources to neighborhood crime fighting, and also led Mayor Anthony A. Williams to urge the DC Council to pass the Mayor's package of emergency public safety legislation.
"The increasing percentage of juveniles involved in crime is a disturbing and unacceptable trend, and that's why we had to take steps immediately to ensure that what has occurred over the past 30 days goes no further," the Mayor said. "But we also need the community to be involved in our efforts. I encourage all residents to find the time to participate in their local Neighborhood Watch and crime prevention activities. That's what National Night Out is all about," the Mayor added.
DC's celebration of National Night Out will begin at 5 pm on August 1, with a citywide kickoff ceremony at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Mayor Williams and Chief Ramsey will be joined by leaders from the community, the MPDC and other government agencies. The kickoff event will be followed by dozens of neighborhood crime prevention events in all seven police districts.
A list of National Night Out activities across the District can be found on the Police Department's website, www.mpdc.dc.gov/nno. Residents may also call the MPDC's Community Outreach Section at (202) 727-0783 for information about activities in their neighborhood.
Residents who are unable to participate in organized National Night Out activities are still encouraged to turn on exterior lights and spend some time outside on the evening of August 1, as a show of solidarity against crime and in support of neighborhood safety.
While it is formally celebrated each year on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out is actually a year-long community building campaign designed to achieve four goals: 1) heighten citizen awareness of crime and drug prevention; 2) generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime and community policing programs; 3) strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and 4) send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. National Night Out is sponsored nationally by the National Association of Town Watch.