Since 1984, the first week of August has been set aside for National Night Out, which brings communities across the country together to combat crime, drugs and violence in their neighborhoods.
And although this is the 30th year for the safety initiative, Austintown Township participated for the first time on Tuesday, holding its inaugural Night Out event at Austintown Township Park.
The park was packed with people of all ages, who were meeting and greeting their neighborhood police officers and talking about ways to prevent crime.
“Calling 911 in an emergency, letting our neighbors know if something’s going on in the neighborhood, keeping an eye out on each others’ homes when we’re out of town,” said Austintown D.A.R.E. officer Det. Sgt. Jeffrey Toth.
“If you see something and it doesn’t look right, pick up the phone and call the police,” said June Galbraith of the Wickliffe Circle Block Watch.
“Our police are working hard, and we’re working hand-in-hand with our police, that our community’s making our police aware of when there’s crimes in their neighborhood, and we’re doing everything we can to keep the criminals out,” Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis said.
The event featured live entertainment, a bounce castle donated by Austintown Bounce, a dunk tank, clowns, face painting, kids identification kits, displays of safety vehicles that kids were able to explore and a classic car and motorcycle mini-cruise. There also was safety demonstrations.
Other local National Night Out events were held in Hubbard, Youngstown and New Middletown, where parades and cookouts were the highlights.
“It’s called take a bite out of crime, it’s about taking the streets back at night. National Night Out is about neighborhood organizations and block watches coming together, saying that we come out at night, we’re not afraid to be out there,” said Anita Davis of Youngstown’s ICU block watch.
And even though National Night Out is just one night, the goal is to continue the crime-fighting credo all year long.
“During the school year, when I’m in school, I spend a lot of time teaching kids to be good citizens, so it’s all part of crime prevention, reporting crime, keeping each other safe and being good citizens,” Toth said.
“Austintown’s a safe community, and we want to keep it that way, and the only way to do that is to be pro-active, and not react to crime,” Davis said.