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Lights On for Safety

Mount Vernon neighborhoods participate in National Night Out.

Lieutenant Michael D. Dittmer, assistant commander, and Captain Larry Moser, commander, both from the Mount Vernon District Station of the Fairfax County Police, decided to divide and conquer this week.

With eight Mount Vernon neighborhoods participating in this year's National Night Out celebrations, they wanted to make sure that they were able to spend plenty of time at each of the neighborhoods. In addition, Chief of Police Dave Rohrer was out visiting several participating Fairfax County neighborhoods.

“This gives officers an opportunity to interact with the citizens. It's the one night when you really want to get out there and meet the citizens and let them meet you. It lets them put a name behind the badge,” Dittmer said.

Mount Vernon neighborhoods that participated in this year's National Night Out were: Bucknell Manor, Engleside, Kings Gardens, Pinewood Lake, Pinewood Lawns, Waynewood, Woodlawn Manor and Vantage neighborhoods. These neighborhoods all participated with picnics, parties and “lights on.”

The rest of the police and fire officials tried to get to as many of the events as possible.

Janice Harris, coordinator of the event for the Engleside community, said, “The police were here at 6; they said, ‘We're hitting you first because you always have the best food.’”

She wasn't kidding; tables overflowed with sandwiches, chips, dips, finger foods, cookies and brownies. Fred Harris was cooking up the burgers, while Pat Padberg was the weenie cooker (65 cooked as of 7 p.m.) at Engleside's National Night Out celebration. Harris has coordinated the event for the past 10 years, holding it on her front lawn.

There was plenty of food at the other sites — pizza at Pinewood Lake, hot dogs at Pinewood Lawns, dessert at Woodlawn Manor and ice cream at Bucknell Manor. Children were thrilled to see the fire trucks, police cars, bike patrol and emergency vehicles come to their neighborhood. David Wielkiewicz of Pinewood Lawns said, “We always try to get the fire trucks out.”

This is the 21st year for National Night Out, which was designed to heighten awareness of crime prevention; generate support for, and participation in, local crime-fighting programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.