National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.
First launched in 1984, National Night Out aims to make neighborhoods across the country safer and more caring places to live while bringing police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.
Most of the United States celebrates National Night Out on the first Tuesday in August. The festivities are typically planned by local law enforcement and/or community associations. The celebrations vary greatly from community to community, but often include block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts, seminars, youth events, exhibits, or visits from emergency personnel. The annual celebrations bring excitement and entertainment to communities across the country – while promoting safety.
Strong relationships of mutual trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Law enforcement officials rely on the cooperation of community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods, and to work with law enforcement to develop solutions to local problems. National Night Out is a platform in which adults can participate in this cooperation while teaching children what to do in an emergency and to learn who the helpers are.
However, in the wake of recent events, the relationship between communities and law enforcement has become strained. There is less trust in law enforcement amongst many communities, particularly minorities. National Night Out provides a safe and open platform to discuss local concerns and to work collaboratively in addressing these concerns. It is one of the few opportunities where all community members can easily and without fear approach law enforcement for an open conversation. For many minorities, National Night Out is an opportunity to feel safe engaging with law enforcement because it is a community-centric event. This strained relationship between communities and law enforcement may not be solved in one National Night Out, but it is an opportunity to start bridging that gap and working together to keep communities safe.