OLNEY— On Aug. 6, many neighborhoods around Montgomery County participated in National Night Out, in which communities can spend time with law enforcement personnel and first responders in a family-friendly environment.
Before there was National Night Out, Matt Peskin began the National Association of Town Watch in 1981. He noticed through his volunteer work with the Lower Merion Community Watch program the needed to have a shared platform among different neighborhood watch groups.
According to National Association of Town Watch, during his years of volunteering, Peskin often patrolled neighborhoods, assisted in dispatching officers where they were need and began the organization’s newsletter.
Peskin observed that the opportunity to gather new valuable content for the newsletter became more difficult as each month passed, so he started to reach out to surrounding communities for assistance. Peskin noticed that “hundreds of these local groups existed with no shared platform to connect,” the National Association of Town Watch wrote.
Then, in 1984, the National Association of Town Watch introduced the National Night Out program.
“National Night Out was introduced in August of 1984 through an already established network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups, state and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the nation. The first National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states,” wrote the National Association of Town Watch.
According to National Night Out, millions of people around the country participate in the annual evening event on the first Tuesday in August.
“National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community,” National Night Out wrote. “Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.”
The event can look different depending on where community members choose to participate; for instance, some neighborhoods may hold block parties, parades or cookouts; they often include safety demonstrations by police and first responders.
In Montgomery County, National Night Out Events were held in multiple locations like Silver Spring and Derwood.
“A fun #NationalNightOut despite the rain,” wrote Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando on Twitter. “I joined families, faith groups, first-responders and more at events in Derwood, Rockville and Silver Spring! Great to see so many people out tonight for a purpose: working together to strengthen our neighborhoods!”
He also noted in a video put together by the council that National Night Out is one of his favorite events during the year.
“You get to have fun, you get to hear music (like we have here) and the community really gets to come out and meet their public safety folks, their police, their fire who are putting their lives on the line everyday and it’s a really great way to build trust and build relationships,” Jawando said.
In Olney, the National Night Out event was held in the Harris Teeter parking lot and was set up like a block party, before it was rained out. There were booths and tents with information on different law enforcement and first responder departments and the parking lot was circled by vehicles like police cars and ambulances.
In Derwood, attendees of the National Night Out event avoided the rain by gathering under pavilions. There was still music and engaging activities despite the weather.
“If you build that foundation of engagement and trust and support it pays off in so many different ways and that’s really what National Night Out is just about, bringing the community and the police and public safety community together,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer at Derwood’s Blueberry Hill Park.
Cpl. Philip Brower and his K-9 partner Monte were also out visiting with attendees in Derwood.
“Generally, I have very little interaction with most of the public, so this is a nice thing to come and talk to some people and meet some people which I normally don’t do because it’s usually just (Monte) and me doing our own thing,” he said.
He noted that often children are a little frightened by the police but having a dog partner makes him seem less intimidating.
“A lot of times when people are a little hesitant to come up and talk to the police, especially the kids and stuff they see the dog and suddenly it brings everyone together,” Cpl. Brower said.