Thursday, August 8, 2013

National Night Out in Plainfield

Thanks goes to the Netherwood Neighbors who organized the party I attended on Tuesday night.   I enjoyed the camaraderie, food and weather   Afterwards, I began to ponder a question prompted by a neighbor at the Cook School pond.  What is National Night Out about?  What are we trying to accomplish beyond having fun with neighbors.  So I went to the NATW website to learn more about the organization that started National Night Out:

"National Association of Town Watch (NATW) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs including neighborhood watch groups, law enforcement agencies, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses, civic groups, and individuals, devoted to safer communities. The nations premiere crime prevention network works with law enforcement officials and civilian leaders to keep crime watch volunteers informed, interested, involved and motivated. Since 1981, NATW continues to serve thousands of members across the nation.
The introduction of National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime”, in 1984 began an effort 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. NATW’s National Night Out program culminates annually, on the first Tuesday of August (In Texas, the first Tuesday of October)."

This night is about empowering neighbors to claim and, in some places, take back their neighborhoods, even if just for a night.  It is to promote partnerships between citizens and law enforcement to fight crime.  So how did Plainfield measure up to the objectives of NATW?

Judging by the number of people who came out for the two get togethers - at City Hall and Cook School Park - pretty good.  And we had a good turnout of police, fire and elected officials.   All combined I estimate between 300 and 400 people joined in. 

My thought provoking neighbor challenged me (thanks Pat TK) to consider how we might do National Night Out in the future and that led me to the following ideas:
  • take the party to the neighborhoods that are "crime hot spots".  There are places in Plainfield where residents don't feel they can come out at night.  That's where we need to take back the streets.
  • we need to empower our block associations to take the lead in planning National Night Out.  Public Safety officials, Mayor and Council members should get behind them, not in front of them.
  • we truly need to empower our city-wide black association group.  Currently it is run by the police.  Our block association leaders need to take it over and get more support from the police.  They need to receive regular, real time crime information that they can take back to their neighbors.  When public safety problems (and proposed solutions) are brought up at their city-wide meetings, the police representatives may need to use the chain of command to provide the proper response.  But they do need to follow-up and bring back responses. 
We had a good night in Plainfield.  With new leadership coming in city hall, we have the opportunity to improve on our successes, try new approaches to public safety and make our streets safer, not just at city hall and Cook School Park, but in the places where people don't feel they can freely partake of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".


Bernice said...

I believe I am among many who are hoping to see an increase in citizen engagement starting in 2014. I see some good indications already in the Plainfield YOU and the CERT group that I met at City Hall Tuesday. The late Dr. Laneuville Jones and Charles Billups were neighborhood activists who took the initiative to partner with government, not just wait on help from City Hall. That is the model to emulate.

Jenn Popper said...

Hi Cory, to be fair, the event was planned by both Netherwood Heights Neighbors and FOSH. It truly was a group effort.