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Joining National Night Out

Crime prevention program brings neighbors together.

Alexandria residents gathered at various sites throughout the City Tuesday evening to participate in National Night Out (NNO), a crime prevention program observed nationwide.

Most of the activities were geared to neighborly gatherings with entertainment for children such as moon bounces and face painting. There were also plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers and other food and beverages for adults and children alike.

Although police and fire personnel were present at most of the sites to answer questions and provide tips on safety and crime prevention there was no specific activities or literature dealing with the essence of the event. Alexandria Fire Department's "Safe House" was part of the festivities at Essex House, 375 S. Reynolds St.

Designed to teach various elements of fire prevention and safety, the Safe House has a mock kitchen, where many home fires occur, a living room with fireplace to teach safety in dealing with fireplaces, and a bedroom area that can be filled with mist to imitate smoke, training children how to escape a real smoke situation.

There were six venues throughout the City where CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers served as information sources, according to Harriet McGuire, Alexandria CERT Communications. "The goal of the CERT volunteers at NNO sites was to explain CERT's role in the community and recruit volunteers for new classes starting in September," McGuire said. It is operated under the aegis of the Alexandria Fire Department.

"Next year we should try to have more literature available," Chip Carlin, an organizer of the Upper King Street Neighborhood Association's sixth annual National Night Out Block Party, said. Their event was held in the 300 block of Commerce Street and included an inflated Moon Bounce Room.

"My daughter did get a crime prevention coloring book," Robert Lennox, a representative of the neighborhood association, said. "But, more information in the form of flyers or print outs would be helpful."

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is a crime prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW). Activities are held throughout the nation in an effort to strengthen community spirit and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime, according NATW literature.

NNO is now observed in more than 100 communities throughout this region. Since its inception, more than 20 years ago, it has swelled to encompass nearly 10,000 communities nationwide and U.S. military bases around the globe.

In addition to neighborhood gatherings, some communities have opted to show their support through a "lights on" program. In these instances, homeowners are encouraged to keep their outdoor lights illuminated throughout the night to highlight the need for year-round vigilance.