Neighbors will fill community streets this Tuesday evening as National Night Out brings together communities and law enforcement to celebrate crime prevention.
"The main goal of National Night out is to show support for neighborhood watch, crime prevention and looking out for each other," Hermiston crime prevention officer Erica Franz said Wednesday. "It's a time for neighbors to get together and celebrate being together while recognizing what people do every day: that they watch out for their neighbors."
Introduced in 1984, National Night Out is a nationwide campaign created by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit, crime prevention organization, to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local antiprime efforts. Last year, more than 36 million people participated in National Night Out events in 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.
Tuesday's event marks Hermiston's 12th year with the program, and following the theme - "giving crime and drugs a going away party" - 17 neighborhoods have signed up to host their own parties.
"We have neighborhoods all over town, from Alora Drive all the way to West Joseph," Franz said. "Parties are usually between 6-8 p.m. and range from barbecues to dessert bars, to potlucks. The parties will also have police cars and fire trucks stopping by to visit with citizens. Our police and fire departments have members visiting all the parties to show their support of this important event."
In Hermiston, each party will also sample local watermelon donated by Walker Farms, and one community will receive ice cream dished by Hermiston Mayor Bob Severson and Hermiston City Council members in honor of winning the Hermiston Medallion Treasure Hunt. In that competition, Hermiston residents read clues published in the East Oregonian and find a medallion hidden at a site within the city. The winner then takes the medallion in to the Hermiston Police Department and chooses the location of the ice cream social. The Anderson family, of Hermiston, found the 2010 medallion and delivered it to the department at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
And Hermiston isn't the only community inviting residents out for the evening. In Umatilla, residents can stop by Umatilla City Hall from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. for a citywide National Night Out complete with games, a barbecue - $1 buys a hotdog or hamburger, chips and a drink - and an auction.
"All the money from the auction goes to the neighborhood watch programs," Umatilla Police Chief Darla Huxel said Thursday. "The key to the whole night out is for people to get to know their neighbors and the members of their community. Sharing that information hopefully will make it more comfortable for people to reports crimes and take a proactive approach toward reducing crimes in their neighborhoods."
Although National Night Out marks a specific day to recognize neighborhood and law enforcement efforts to keep communities safe, Franz said the movement continues year round.
"Whether you participate in a National Night Out party or not, watch out for your neighbors and report suspicious activity," she said. "That's the best way to keep your neighborhood safe."