What began over 20-years ago as a night for cities to focus on crime and drug prevention has turned into an annual summer tradition in many communities around the nation -- in 2010, 37 million people participated in National Night Out! The message behind National Night Out is simple, but powerful -- to send the message that neighborhoods are united against crime and drugs, to promote a sense of community between neighbors and to have a great time on what's sure to be a gorgeous summers night!
Participating in National Night Out on August 2 is simple -- most cities have already registered with the NNO organization, so you'll want to visit your city's website or call the Chamber of Commerce for information on how to participate. One of the most fun and most popular ways that neighbors celebrate National Night Out is by throwing a block party -- this requires registering with the city for a simple (and typically free) permit to close off your street. Your local police department is also likely to have all the information you'll need about participating in NNO. Besides taking care of any details your city requires to participate, the only other requirement is to rally your neighbors!
With over 15,000 communities expected to participate in every state across the country, there's sure to be something planned for National Night Out in your city. To find out what's happening in your neighborhood, check out features about National Night Out in your local newspapers, city websites and police department websites. Some cities, such as Seattle, even have Facebook pages with information about what's happening for NNO.
Since the primary intent of National Night Out is really to promote awareness about crime and drug prevention in your neighborhood, this is a great time to have a neighborhood or block meeting about how to stay safe -- most participating police departments are happy to send an officer to your NNO party to speak about neighborhood safety and local fire departments also send their trucks around to NNO gatherings to spread the word about fire safety.
Other great ideas for neighborhood safety include starting an email group for quick communication in case of an emergency, making a neighorbood map with everyone's names (including children's names) and appointing a block captain as a go-to person for any neighborhood issues.
Okay, enough serious business! As much as National Night Out is a great opportunity to work on the safety of your neighborhood, it's also the perfect excuse to get together with your neighbors and have some fun. Beyond blocking off the street for a block party, consider putting together some crazy games that will get everyone laughing (think balloon tosses and egg on a spoon relay races) or organizing a bike parade for the kids. Have everyone contribute food and drinks to share, bring down some iPod speakers and outdoor chairs and have a great time!
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