Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For neighbors and police, a ‘Night’ to come together

Annual crime-prevention parties connect cops with communities

by Aaron Kraut | Special to The Gazette

Tuesday will mark the 25th annual National Night Out, and many area neighborhoods will participate in the block party-style event designed to enhance the relationship between police and citizens in order to discourage crime.

Some, like the Eastern Montgomery Services Center, are putting together substantial events open to the public. Gwen Haney, program specialist with the Center, said she is expecting anywhere from 750 to 1,000 people at The Enclave Apartments in the White Oak neighborhood of Silver Spring, where, in addition to swimming and food, there will be activities ranging from fingerprinting kits for children to bicycle registration with county police.

Others will be more narrowly tailored neighborhood gatherings, like the Carroll Knolls Civic Association National Night Out celebration in Silver Spring, which will feature desserts and a moon bounce for people in the McKenney Hills and Carroll Knolls communities, according to Civic Association member Elissa Leif.

‘‘We have had auto break-ins and a little bit of crime, so it’s more of a combination of coming out against crime and people meeting each other,” Leif said.

National Night Out is celebrated nationally and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. All events share the same goals: making local communities safer from crime by getting people comfortable with their police and neighbors.

‘‘Get them comfortable and able to interact so they know they are there for you,” said Ronnie Miller, the operations manager for the nonprofit Safe Takoma, on the purpose of having police present at the event.

Miller and Safe Takoma will be part of the National Night Out event at the Takoma Metro station, where police will provide commuters with safety information and Safe Takoma will introduce its whistle program for safety awareness.

‘‘We’re going to hand out whistles to the commuters,” Miller said. ‘‘If they see trouble or are in trouble, they’ll blow their whistle.”

J’aime Huret, general manager for Riverstone Residential Group, which owns The Enclave Apartments, said hosting National Night Out is a way to give back to the community for supporting The Enclave’s renovations and help repair the area’s reputation when it comes to crime.

‘‘The community has been very supportive and people are just giving us the opportunity to prove this is a great place to live,” Huret said. ‘‘We’re here to contribute as much as we can, and obviously crime awareness is a huge way to do that.”

In addition to the Montgomery County police at The Enclave, there will be representatives from the Citizens Emergency Response Team, arts and crafts for children, self-defense demonstrations and a 911 simulator, which people can use to practice making emergency calls.

Police are hoping to build relationship with community members on National Night Out, said Montgomery County Police Officer Tenesha Jensen. ‘‘We’ve participated in past years and we want to continue fostering that relationship. You can only build upon the groundwork that’s already been laid.”

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