DENVER – National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that has swept the nation since its introduction in 1984. The movement caught hold in Lincolnton, where as many as 10 neighborhoods have hosted block parties to connect the community with the city’s first responders, and now the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is joining the fun, hosting events in the western and eastern sections of the county.
“This campaign does a lot of things,” Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam said. “It brings people together in our county’s neighborhoods and it helps them become familiar with the deputies that serve in their specific district. And it’s not just law enforcement, so we’ll have the fire departments involved and our medics will be there as well, so it’s a great opportunity for the community to interact with emergency services personnel. It’s a time to come together as emergency response agencies to build partnerships with the people that we serve because that’s what it’s all about.”
In communities like Lincolnton, where the program is already established, neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other community events. With this being the first National Night Out in Denver, the local event will be hosted by the sheriff’s office in an attempt to gauge interest for future installments.
“Basically, this is gonna be like a kickoff to just introduce the program to the community, with the hope that individual neighborhoods will get involved and host their own events next year,” Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jordan Cody said. “We encourage any community leaders who want to come out and set up a tent to represent their neighborhood to do so.”
Millions take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities in all 50 states. The program has become even more essential in recent years, particularly for law enforcement, according to Cody.
“Face-to-face interaction makes a huge difference, especially in our day and age, where relationships between police and the public seem to be tense,” he said. “We’re trying to do something to bridge that gap. Obviously, we rely heavily on our citizens to assist us in a variety of ways, so it’s important to build those relationships. If you have to call law enforcement or any other emergency response agency, you want to know who you can rely on.”
National Night Out is about more than uniting communities with their first responders, however. It’s also an opportunity to bring neighbors together in the name of safety.
“The more eyes you have looking out for your neighborhood, the better,” Cody said. “It’s always important to watch out for your neighbors, especially keeping an eye out while they’re out of town, knowing who is and isn’t supposed to be coming in and out. Better communication between neighbors helps us in law enforcement as well.”
National Night Out in Denver will include interactive activities for children and adults, as well as games and bounce houses, a DJ providing music and a selection of food trucks from the area. The public will also get a close look at patrol cars, fire trucks and ambulances, as well as the equipment used by first responders on a daily basis.
While the event is still being planned, the sheriff’s office is exploring the possibility of setting up mock crime scenes for the children to investigate.
National Night Out is Tuesday, Aug. 6. The local event will be from 5 to 9 p.m. in the field beside Walmart on N.C. 73 in Denver. For more information or to register a tent on behalf of your neighborhood, visit https://sites.google.com/view/nnodenvernc/home.