Opinion: Commentary: National Night Out

Opinion: Commentary: National Night Out

Every Year neighborhoods, police departments, fire departments, and community groups across the country come together for a night of games, food, and community building on National Night Out. Neighborhoods, pools, and community centers host bar-b-ques, block parties, and festivals where police officers pay a visit and mingle with civilians. Children have the chance to meet McGruff the Crime Dog, see emergency vehicles, and give a police officer a high-five. Meanwhile adults and parents can share a burger with an officer and talk about safety concerns or even just the latest Nationals game. This night is about strengthening the bonds that make our community safe and happy.

National Night Out, which takes place on Aug. 6, is far more than just a celebration. It is a beneficial learning experience for all parties involved. Children learn that police officers are not just there to arrest people, but to protect and serve their neighborhood. Adults and parents get to personally know the officers in charge of protecting their families. Community groups, such as Neighborhood Watch, can educate their neighbors on their mission and even recruit some to join. Lastly, officers get to meet and better understand the people they serve, thereby improving their service to the community. When this type of communication takes place, we all benefit and actively make our neighborhoods safer in the process.

I will participate in National Night Out once again this year with the police from West Springfield District Station. I always enjoy visiting the many neighborhoods of the Braddock District in a police car with one of our fine Fairfax County Police Department Officers. In fact, National Night Out is the perfect time for neighborhood leaders to print and hand out copies of the Fairfax County Community Emergency Response Guide (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cerg). From there, they can start a conversation with police officers about preparing for emergencies with a special focus on safety. Events like National Night Out bridge the communication gap that prevents civilians from learning all they can to prepare for emergencies. Community groups, such as Neighborhood Watch and the Community Emergency Response Team, will also be present to speak to about getting involved. As a community leader I am always happy to see people coming together. There’s something special about National Night Out.

In a time where trust in societal institutions is at a dangerous low, National Night Out offers a solution in a positive and enjoyable reprieve from the negative news cycle. Events like this are vital to encourage strong and trusting relationships between first responders and the communities they serve.

The free ice cream is a very big perk as well.