I hope that you are able to attend a National Night Out event this evening in Cedar Rapids. This is the 17th year that Cedar Rapids has participated in National Night Out events. Throughout the years, neighborhood activities have been held in every quadrant of the city in multiple locations. This underscores that while Cedar Rapids is a large community, it is also compromised of close-knit neighborhoods.
Police officers look forward to getting to know citizens in an informal, festive atmosphere, which National Night Out is all about. Last year, U. S. Attorney Kevin Techau and I attended numerous events throughout Cedar Rapids. During our visits, we heard about pride that citizens have in their neighborhoods. While enjoying refreshments like hot dogs and lemonade, we talked with residents about how they had taken steps to clean up their neighborhood, help an older adult, paint their house, or worked as a group to install playground equipment at a school or day care. It was heartwarming to listen to and witness indicators of civic pride.
National Night Out, first known as “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” started in 1984 as an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, enhance police-community partnerships, and build neighborhood camaraderie. It was conceptualized to send a message to criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and are fighting back against crime.
Over three decades later, National Night Out still is about strengthening neighborhoods. When people take the time to get to know their neighbors, they make our community safer. Good neighbors watch out for one another. They report suspicious behavior and activity. In turn, they help deter crime.
From 6-8 p.m. this evening, neighbors throughout Cedar Rapids are asked to lock their doors, turn on their front porch lights and spend the evening outside with neighbors and law enforcement. Along with the traditional outside lights and front porch vigils, you can celebrate National Night Out by hosting a block party, ice cream social, cookout or other activity that unites your neighborhood. Police officers, firefighters, and other city employees look forward to stopping by events in which organizers registered with the police department.
While National Night Out is held one evening each year, we hope it is a stimulus for neighborhood building activities for the other 364 days of the year. The police department certainly appreciates your support in promoting a safe, livable community.
• Wayne M. Jerman is Cedar Rapids Chief of Police. More information: www.cedar-rapids.org/police or call Sgt. Cristy Hamblin at (319) 286-5439.