Each year on the first Tuesday of August — this year, August 2nd — homeowners across America are encouraged to lock their doors, flip on their outside lights and spend the evening outdoors celebrating with neighbors.
National Association of Town Watch’s (NATW) annual National Night Out program focuses on building relationships between police and community members by offering free family activities, including block parties, cookouts, safety demonstrations and live entertainment. More than 38 million people nationwide are expected to take part this year.
A bit o’ history
Neighborhood Watch is one of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country, bringing citizens together with law enforcement to deter crime and make communities safer.
Sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), Neighborhood Watch can trace its roots back to the days of colonial settlements, when night watchmen patrolled the streets. The modern version of Neighborhood Watch was developed in response to requests from sheriffs and police chiefs who were looking for a crime prevention program that would involve citizens and address an increasing number of burglaries.
“The heart of any community is neighbors caring for neighbors,” Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley said. “The city’s entire leadership team is looking forward to ‘fellowshipping’ with our residents and celebrating the best of Kentwood. National Night Out provides the opportunity for our City to have the kind of open communication that fosters a better community.”
Launched in 1972, Neighborhood Watch counts on citizens to organize themselves and work with law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. (The program took off quickly: in just 10 years, NSA data showed that 12 percent of the population was involved in a Neighborhood Watch.) Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.
National Night Out has been extraordinarily successful in promoting involvement in crime and drug prevention activities, strengthening police-community relations and encouraging neighborhood camaraderie as part of the fight for safer streets. Since 1984, National Night Out — America’s Night Out Against Crime has grown to involve over 30 million people from more than 9,000 communities.
“We enjoy any opportunity to meet with our citizens, but National Night Out is a particularly energizing time for our officers and our community,” Kentwood Police Chief Tom Hillen said. “Members of our department are eager to talk with our residents, hear and respond to their concerns about safety and continue building the bridges necessary for a secure community and good quality of living.”
Each year local Police Departments actively participate in the neighborhood Night Out celebrations. Contact Wyoming Staff Sergeant at 616.257.9711 and Kentwood Staff Sergeant at 616.656.6564 for more information.
So, what’s happening?
Kentwood will be buzzing with block parties, neighborhood events and other activities. City leaders, police officers and firefighters plan to fan out to 16 neighborhood gatherings as well as Woodland Mall to show their support for the annual community-building event. In Kentwood, most events will occur from 6-8 pm.
Consumers Energy is hosting a gathering attended by community leaders and law enforcement across the area from 5-9 am at its service center, 4000 Clay Ave. SW. Mayors and dignitaries from Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville and other local municipalities will gather to recite the NNO credo. Here’s a great opportunity to meet your local leaders!
In addition to the 16 community events in Kentwood at locations including churches, parks and individual homes, the Kentwood Police Department is partnering with Woodland Mall and Celebration! Cinema for a daytime event from 10:30 am-2:30 pm. Residents can come to meet with their police and firefighters and enjoy prizes, games, face painting, free hot dogs and popcorn. The Kentwood Police Department will have law enforcement vehicles on display so you can get an upfront, close and personal look at the equipment officers use to answer your calls.
South Kent’s 7th National Night Out will feature a Black Hawk fly-in at 3:30 pm and takeoff at 7:45 pm. The fly-in and landing will be to the west of Peppinos (located at 1515 Eastport Dr. SE), so keep an eye on the sky!
Christ Community Church (2400 Forest Hill Ave. SE in Grand Rapids) will celebrate NNO 6-8 pm with highlights like face painting, bouncy houses (for the kids, folks), 100-ft-long slip and slides, live music, refreshments, a raffle, lawn games and a dunk tank, with visits from the Kentwood Fire Department, McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog, Kentwood City Police and more. For more info, go here.
Check out what’s happening on the top floor food court at Rivertown Mall at Celebration! Cinema from 11 am-1 pm. You’ll have the chance to mingle with officers from different police jurisdictions from multiple cities. Celebration! has always been a big supporter. (Note: Celebration South has now been moved to Rivertown location for 2016.)
Compassion this Way, 2860 Taft, is sponsoring an event in the Courtyard from 5:30-8 pm. Free food, prizes, games, bounce house and more.
South Godwin will feature a performance by the South Godwin School band at Southlawn Park, 4125 Jefferson Ave. SE, Wyoming. 6-8pm.
Eastown is joining the thousands of neighborhoods across the US who participate in National Night Out. Join in the fun from 5-7 pm at Wilcox Park, 1436 Wilcox Park Dr. SE in Grand Rapids, for a GRPS-sponsored Bounce House, Triump Music Academy providing music and instrument fun, henna tattoos from a local artist, face painting, chalk art, games and prizes… and sweet treats! This event is FREE and open to the whole neighborhood, so come on out and invite your neighbors and friends.
From 5:30-8 pm, join local police, fire and other neighborhood partners as GR Kroc Center (2500 South Division Ave. SW in Grand Rapids) celebrates community safety and togetherness. A giant slip & slide will be open, plus you can test your family’s skills in the Kroc Summer Games. Concessions will be available to purchase and enjoy FREE ice cream from Country Fresh! Sponsored by Molina Healthcare and National Heritage Academies.
From 6-8 pm, Stocking Elementary School, 863 7th St. NW in Grand Rapids, offers food, games, a raffle, crime prevention tips and more. Meet your neighbors and help keep your neighborhood safe! Sponsored by West Grand Neighborhood Organization, City of Grand Rapids, GR Police Department, GR Fire Department, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, Community Foundation and several other fine organizations. (For a complete list, go here.)
There’s so much to see and do, and only a couple short hours to enjoy it! So get involved, join in this evening of easy-breezy fun and create some great memories.
Strong police and community partnership is a critical component of community-oriented policing and problem-solving model. Over the past few years, Neighborhood Watch groups have surfaced as highly effective tools in the detection, reporting and prevention of crime and criminal activity.
There are many active Neighborhood Watch groups operating throughout our local municipalities. Group participants hold regular meetings that allow you to meet your neighbors and discuss problems which may be occurring in your district and develop strategies and methods for dealing with them. By becoming familiar with your neighborhood, you are better prepared to detect and report suspicious activity or potential problem individuals or vehicles in your area.
The Wyoming Police department provides personal assistance to Wyoming residents interested in establishing new Watch Groups and with the facilitation of existing programs. If you or your neighbors are interested in establishing a Neighborhood Crime Watch Program in your Wyoming neighborhood, please contact Staff Sergeant at 616.257.9711. In Kentwood, contact Staff Sergeant at 616.656.6564.
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