By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Fun Family Event Meant to Build Positive Community-Police Relationships
On Tuesday, August 7, millions of people in thousands of communities across the country will take the time to step out of their homes and join their neighbors for an evening of fun and laughter as we celebrate the 34th annual National Night Out (NNO). The event holds a special place in many individual’s hearts simply because it’s a time meant for people to reconnect with their community, creating safe communities and demonstrate a value of everyone within those spaces. As the night approaches, it’s important to remember how this celebration came to be and what it commemorates.
Originally introduced in 1984, NNO was organized by Philadelphia resident, Matt Peskin. Over the years Peskin had been heavily involved with a number of community watch groups, including the Lower Merion Community Watch Association. Acting as a volunteer for the group, which was founded in association with the Lower Merion Police Department, Peskin introduced the program’s newsletter. Through the publishing of the newsletter, Peskin connected with a number of other community watch groups in the area; and through these relationships, Peskin realized that these groups, and many more around the country, existed without a platform to connect them.
Shortly following this discovery, the National Association of Town Watch was founded in 1981 to provide these watch groups with the resources necessary to succeed. It grew to serve communities across the country, but Peskin thought that more could be done. It was three years later that Peskin and the National Association of Town Watch introduced National Night Out. First celebrated by 2.5 million neighbors across 23 states in August of 1984 with front porch vigils, the event is now held in every state and attended by an estimated 38 million neighbors. Beyond the size, the meaning of the event has expanded as well. What started as a night for residents to participate in crime prevention has grown into a night to deepen community ties with the police department and to remind ourselves what it truly means to be a member of a community.
I have been involved with National Night Out for a number of years. I look forward to the many legislators, organizations, and community members that step up to make this family-friendly event happen. There is no doubt that this year’s celebrations will be bittersweet considering the recent loss of two Milwaukee Police Officers, Charles Irvine and Michael J. Michalski. NNO reminds us that we need one another. So, I encourage you to join us for an evening of food, entertainment, free youth activities like swimming and skating, and resource vendors on Tuesday, August 7 in Lincoln Park from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to celebrate and remember what it means to be a member of the Milwaukee community.