National Night Out Greatly Needed Today
Celebrate National Night Out Tuesday, Aug. 2
Image courtesy of National Association of Town Watch
Tonight, neighbors across the Piedmont Triad and the US will turn on their porch lights and gather outside to promote safer neighborhoods and positive relationships with police officers. It's called National Night Out — a national observance now in its 33rd year. With the current uneasy climate between public servants in uniform and the citizens they are sworn to protect, such events are sorely needed.
My mom used to tell my siblings and me stories of how the beat cops in her neighborhood — she grew up in New York City — were an extension of the family. You obeyed them as you did your parents. They were out there every day watching out for the kids and families in their assigned neighborhoods. The officers knew everyone by name. Mutual respect was a given.
I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and North Carolina. We didn't have beat cops walking the streets. The extent of my interaction with police officers was limited to the time I was pulled over when I was 17. I was on my way home from the grocery store after picking up milk and a few other items for my mom. I wasn't speeding and my tail lights were in excellent working order. However, I was driving my dad's car and he had forgotten to put the renewal sticker on his license tag before it expired.
When my kids were growing up, they met several officers in school. There were the C.A.R.E. and D.A.R.E. officers as well as the school resource officers assigned to their middle and high schools.
And while my kids grew up with a little more exposure to the work that officers do to protect citizens, their experiences were nothing like those of my mom's childhood. I often wonder what it would be like if cities and towns had the resources to employ enough officers to have beat cops that walked the neighborhoods, interacted with kids and families, and knew everyone on a first-name basis.
National Night Out works to bridge that gap with community events that bring officers and community members together to eat, have fun and get to know each other. Building personal relationships is critical when it comes to changing attitudes on both sides of the fence. With more events like tonight's, I believe mutual respect can be rebuilt.
In addition to making sure your porch lights are blazing tonight, you can learn more about National Night Out by visiting natw.org. You can also participate in area events, such as National Night Out in Uptown Lexington, National Night Out Outdoor Movie Night in High Point or one of hundreds of neighborhood block parties across the Piedmont Triad.