A good night out

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 04:43 PM

Tuesday night, more than 100 neighborhoods throughout Durham did what this city does so well.  They demonstrated their commitment to community, delivered a firm message – and had fun.

The occasion was National Night Out, an event held on the first Tuesday of August across the nation (in Texas, it’s the first Tuesday in October). Durham has long been one of the most active participants in the event, with police, elected officials and neighborhood leaders forging closer bonds.

The first National Night Out was 30 years ago, launched by a non-profit called National Association of Town Watch (NATW), described on its website as “dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs.”

That first year, 2.5 million people took part in 124 communities. “The seed had been planted,” NATW notes – and this year nearly 38 million people in 16,124 communities were expected to take part Tuesday night. It has spread beyond the 50 states to include U.S. territories, Canadian communities and American military bases around the globe.

The event’s purpose, NATW says, is “to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”

That message resonated with Durham participants Tuesday.

“It’s one night to take back the streets,” said McDougald Terrace property manager Cheryle Roberts, who has been involved with NNO for two decades. McDougald Terrace hosts an NNO event every year, and N. C. Central University partners to help make it happen.

The notion of forging stronger police-community partnerships was much in evidence at Durham’s events – at McDougald Terrace, it even included the sight of police officers dancing along with residents.

Many people only encounter police in times of trouble – as victims or suspects or, perhaps, just as a motorist whose foot got a little too heavy on the gas pedal.  So community members and police welcomed the amiable interaction Tuesday night.

Residents “can talk to us one-on-one, we can give them words of encouragement, they can give us words of support and encouragement,” NCCU police Capt. A. J. Carter told The Herald-Sun’s Lauren Horsch. 

Echoed his fellow captain, Al White, “without the community, you’re not doing anything. The community is like the back bone.”

And, the event helped to draw closer together neighbors who in the busyness of modern life might not cross paths or share experiences often. At Windsor Commons, a small, relatively new neighborhood off Old Chapel Hill Road where new houses are again beginning to pop up after a prolonged lull, NNO organizer Robbie Weinman welcomed the opportunity to get to know newer residents.

“I don’t think it matters whether it’s a small or large community, everyone needs to watch out for the personal and community safety,” she said.

Weinman and all the other organizers and participants, police and civilian, deserve the city’s gratitude for working to make this a safer, more engaged community.