We remember the days when neighborhood gatherings were a common part of community life, when you knew everyone on your block — even the names of their children and maybe most of their children’s friends.
Today, however, it seems a little tougher to get to know people — many of us may have more “friends” on social media than we do in the houses on our own streets.
That’s one of the reasons that National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” was introduced in 1984. The National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting crime prevention programs, estimates that the annual observance now involves more than 37 million people, according to the association’s website.
In Denton, at least eight neighborhoods participated in this year’s National Night Out, which was held on Tuesday, according to local police. Residents involved in the program work to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fight back.
They also have fun. Some neighborhoods have cookouts or block parties and activities for children, including visits from police and firefighters. People get to know each other better and exchange notes on neighborhood security.
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.
Local neighborhood participation has continued to grow, said Officer Orlando Hinojosa, a 27-year veteran of the department.
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. Activities included a bounce house, which organizers said always attracts the youngsters.
National Night Out may be held annually, but those involved in neighborhood crime watch programs work together throughout the year. They realize that when you know your neighbors, it helps deter crime — if you see an unfamiliar person or car, you know that something isn’t right and can pass the information along to police.
Organizers of local crime watch groups recommend that people who are interested in learning more reach out to their neighbors and homeowners associations to get involved with an active group or to start a new one.
Those who don’t live in an area that has a homeowners association and are interested in starting a neighborhood crime watch program should contact Kizer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Hinojosa at Orlando.Hinojosa@cityofdenton.com.
Thanks to all area residents who took part in National Night Out this year — as a result of your efforts, our communities are safer places to live and raise a family.
And if you didn’t participate, consider making the commitment to learn more and get involved in a crime watch program.
You and your neighbors have a lot in common — why not get to know them better?