Police, neighbors get a night out

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Lakewood police are preparing for another evening of getting to know residents with the annual National Night Out program.

National Night Out is always on the first Tuesday of August, and will be on Aug. 6 this year. On that evening, about 50 neighborhoods will have block parties as a way for residents to get to know each other better and to connect with law enforcement as they meet police officers who will be stopping by.

“We help people organize and get the supplies, but they do all the work of getting the parties set up,” said Jon Alesch, an agent with the police’s sector liaison unit (SLU).

The SLU is responsible for running the event every year, and Alesch said the team will be out in full force on Aug. 6 to stop by parties to meet people and answer any questions community members may have.

The National Night Out event was established by the National Association of Town Watch in Texas in 1984, and about 400 communities in 23 states participated in the first nationwide event. Since then the event has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, more than 37 million people participated in events in 15,110 communities, with all 50 states represented.

According to information provided by police, Lakewood has always participated, but in 2003 the city made a much bigger effort to reach out to the community. In 2009, he said, interest for National Night Out ramped up, and participation has been growing steadily every year.

“A lot of communities like to do one big event, but we let the events be much more diffused within the community,” Alesch said. “Belmar puts on a huge party, but there are a lot of great smaller ones, including events held at senior residences.”

Alesch said the whole point of National Night Out is to build up relationships with community members, particularly with children and people who normally don’t have the chance to get to know officers.

“It’s a great way to connect, to answer questions and try to help people with any problems they may have,” he said. “We want to show people that the community is a safe, comfortable place to be.”

Residents can get more information and register their parties for this year’s event at www.lakewood.org/nno.

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