Neighborhoods across the city gathered Aug. 1 to celebrate National Night Out with festivities ranging from cookouts to children’s games as part of the annual campaign to promote neighborhood camaraderie and enhance the relationship between residents and law enforcement.
“National Night Out makes a difference because it brings neighbors, law enforcement, and other concerned folks together,” said Sheriff Sean Casey. “We’re always going to be stronger against crime when we work together.”
National Night Out, traditionally held on the first Tuesday in August, was first celebrated in 1984 with 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states taking part. The initial years were marked by the simple gesture of sitting on a front porch with lights on.
The annual event has grown beyond front porch vigils with more than 35 million residents across the country participating in block parties, festivals, parades and cookouts.
“This is an opportunity for the community to come together, voice concerns and just enjoy each other,” said Kimberly Artis, Coordinator for the ARHA Ruby Tucker Center.
In addition to Sheriff Casey, Police Chief Don Hayes, Fire Chief Corey Smedley and other emergency personnel visited neighborhoods across the city.
“National Night Out is important for all of public safety,” Chief Smedley said during a stop at Charles Houston Recreation Center. “The goal is to engage the community, understand what their needs are and concerns so that we are meeting those expectations.”
Added Chief Hayes: “National Night Out is very important to us because it gives us a chance to get out in the community, which embraces us, has cookouts for us. We get to meet people and we continue that relationship all year long. National Night Out is like a kickoff for the rest of the year.”
The National Night Out tradition has taken place in Alexandria for many years with new neighborhoods added each year.
“We are hosting our very first National Night Out and it has been amazing,” said Tess Snyder, president of the Auburn Village Unit Owners Association. “Many neighbors have been here, people from the police department, the sheriff’s department, even the City Manager stopped by. It’s always good to meet people face to face, especially in this day and age.”
City Manager Jim Parajon attended the Auburn Village event, calling the evening “very helpful.”
“National Night Out is the perfect time for our community to come together,” Parajon said. “It’s a chance for us to get to know some of the new residents and just chat and find out a little bit more about what’s going on in parts of the community that we don’t spend as much time in.”
Mayor Justin Wilson and members of City Council also made the rounds and spent time getting to know residents.
“National Night Out brings communities together,” said Amira Reiff at the Vassar Road celebration. “City services come and we get a chance to thank them in person for all of the ways they help us as a community. We offer them refreshments while we get a chance to spend time with our neighbors.”
Added Sheriff Casey: “We appreciate every chance we get throughout the year to strengthen our relationships with our neighbors, and for our deputies who work in the detention center, having these connections out in the community is especially meaningful.”