The 30th annual National Night Out was celebrated in communities all across North Texas on Tuesday — and Denton was no exception.
Officer Shane Kizer, a 21-year veteran of the Denton Police Department, said the city has been an active participant in the community anti-crime event for more than 15 years.
“We began taking part in the National Night Out event back when Assistant City Manager John Cabrales was a community officer for the Denton Police Department,” Kizer said. “Officer Jim Bryan worked to build up neighborhood participation over the years, as well.”
According to the National Association of Town Watch, National Night Out is a community building campaign designed to heighten crime prevention awareness and generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs.
The campaign is designed to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Local neighborhood participation has continued to grow, said Officer Orlando Hinojosa, a 27-year veteran of the department.
At least eight neighborhoods participated this year, and several hundred residents took part in the festivities, which featured representatives from the police and fire departments.
More than 150 people showed up for free pizza and mingling with neighbors during an event at the Preserve at Pecan Creek amenities center hosted by the neighborhood crime watch group.
“This is our second year to host at this location and I think it’s a better fit,” said August Olim, an organizer participating in his fourth year. “Plus, we have a bounce house and that always attracts the younger ones.”
Olim said he is older and really would like to encourage the younger families to get involved in their neighborhood more.
“It really helps deter crime when you know each other better, so that way, when you see a unfamiliar person or car, you know that something is not right,” he said. “We are lucky to live in a neighborhood with low crime and by knowing one another, we can keep it that way.”
Amber Daugherty recently moved to the Pecan Creek neighborhood with her nearly 2-year-old son, Austin.
“We moved here last November and thought we should come check it out and meet some of our neighbors,” she said.
So far, the Preserve at Pecan Creek has about eight to 10 active community crime watch members, co-organizer Karla Johnson said.
“I hope to have more signed up by the end of this event when I look at the list,” she said.
Hinojosa said he was happy to see so many families out wanting to be involved in their community, while he handed out stickers and coloring books at various neighborhoods Tuesday.
“I had a blast and look forward to next year’s NNO,” he said.
Olim recommends that people reach out to their neighborhood’s homeowners association to start up a crime watch group, or to get involved with one that’s already active.
If you don’t live in an area that has a homeowners association and are interested in starting a neighborhood crime watch program, contact Kizer at email@example.com or Hinojosa at Orlando.Hinojosa@cityofdenton.com.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.