Anne Marie McCaskin, 37, holds her 24-month-old son, Toby, and watches their young neighbors line up for free shaved ice at a National Night Out block party held Aug. 2 in the Random Hills townhouse community near Fairfax Corner. She appreciates her local law enforcement agency and doesn’t want her kids to be afraid to ask for help from police officers when they need it.
Photo by Marti Moore/The Connection
At first, National Night Out was a simple gesture citizens made to show their support for local law enforcement: Turn on the front porch light the first Tuesday night in August.
For the next few years, citizens nationwide turned on their lights and sat outside on their front stoops to show criminals they’re not welcome.
During the next two decades, the movement grew into block parties and carnivals at which residents celebrate safe neighborhoods with cookouts, potluck dinners and ice cream socials.
“It helps build community relations,” says Fairfax County Police Department Master Police Officer Richard “Wayne” Twombly, who oversees crime prevention for the Fair Oaks District Station.
Nearly 50 residents of the Random Hills townhouse neighborhood near Fairfax Corner held a National Night Out block party Aug. 2. Children beat the heat of a humid summer evening and stayed cool throwing water balloons by the community swimming pool.
Twombly said the Random Hills gathering was among 12 events throughout the Fair Oaks District — the largest of which occurred in the Franklin Farm subdivision.
Anne Marie McCaslin, 37, said Tuesday was her fourth year participating in National Night Out. She heads the social committee of the Random Hills Community Association and believes this annual event has helped her neighborhood build a community in which law enforcement officers are comfortable patrolling their streets and residents feel comfortable having a police presence.
Although her homeowners association doesn’t have a community crime watch program, “We do pay attention,” McCaslin states. She and her neighbors check police blotters on a regular basis.
Random Hills resident Gene Lin, 45, said their previous National Night Out events were ice cream socials. As board treasurer of the HOA, Lin budgeted for pizza this year plus shaved ice delivered by the Ono Hawaiian Ice truck driven by Clifton business owner Mark Collier.
FCPD OFFICERS Lt. J. Krause and Capt. Chris Marsh gave free coloring books, pencils and stickers to little kids before making their rounds to other National Night Out activities in Fair Oaks.
Despite recent public outcry across the country over police shootings, Marsh claims, “We have seen a lot more citizens stop by the station dropping off cookies and cards” as a show of community support for local law enforcement.
“It’s a partnership community and police have together,” Marsh states. He believes it’s an understanding “we are all in this situation together when it comes to public safety.”
National Night Out started out in 1984 with funds from the U.S. Department of Justice that were distributed to 400 communities across the country by the National Association of Town Watch.
The nonprofit association — based in Wynnewood, Pa. — boasted 1,200 block parties in Minneapolis alone this year says NATW volunteer Allison Kostiuk.
The main goal, she says, is to get neighbors together with their law enforcement officials in non-emergency situations to find ways to build safer communities.
Visit https://natw.org to learn how you can organize your own block party or carnival for next year’s National Night Out.
FOR INFORMATION on crime prevention and awareness, read the FCPD website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police — including a section about “What to Do When You Are Stopped by Police.”