As Beth Anderson and her neighbors gathered outside for their National Night out picnic, the loud drone of a police helicopter buzzed above their heads.
"I said, 'hey they're doing a fly-by,' and laughed, but then the helicopter circled around again, and we realized that we really were getting a fly-by," said Anderson, who is head of the Westmoreland Park Neighborhood Watch association. "It was great."
The circling police helicopter provided the perfect kick-off for several National Night out events in the McLean area. National Night Out first began in 1984, and participation has grown steadily over the years. Residents across the nation are asked to turn their outside lights on, lock their doors and spend the evening outside with their neighbors and local police.
This year's National Night Out took place on Aug. 1, and Neighborhood Watch associations throughout McLean held picnics, barbecues and ice cream socials for residents, police officers and local officials.
"It's a good way for the community to meet with us in a positive environment," said Capt. Graham McGowan, commander of the McLean district station. "It gives them the opportunity to talk about their issues, and I use it as an opportunity to listen."
JANE BARRETT has been organizing an ice cream social for the residents of Lillian Court in Tysons for the past six years. As a volunteer at the McLean district station, Barrett feels that it is important to show appreciation for the services provided by local police.
"I feel that our neighborhood is very safe," said Lillian Court resident Bea Finkel at the ice cream social. "It's nice to have her [Barrett] as a liaison."
Betty MacDonald has been organizing a National Night cookout for her Vistas Lane neighborhood for the past 12 years.
"It's been going well even though it's the hottest day of the year," said MacDonald last week.
MacDonald said she is pleased with the growing participation of National Night Out.
"I think it's really good psychologically for us all to pull together," she said.
Thomas Lipp just moved into the Vistas Lane neighborhood 10 months ago, and said he thought the barbecue would be a good chance to get to know his neighbors as well as the local police officers.
"I travel a lot and this is the first time I have ever been to something like this," said Lipp. "I've been to Morroco, France, Germany — they don't have any such thing like this."
Lipp added that he has never had to call the police for any reason, and he feels "quite safe" in his neighborhood.
Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois traveled with McLean district station police officers to visit several National Night Out events.
"I think it's important for people to get out and meet their neighbors, and for neighbors to get out and meet the police — and it's a great way for me to get out and meet everyone, so it's a win-win situation for everybody," said DuBois. "The police love it because it's a chance for them to meet more people in the community and they enjoy that."