Sun Editorial: Take advantage of events to interact with police in a casual setting

Whether a town has a National Night Out event next week or events throughout the year, take some time to attend.

Some 38 million Americans will go out next Tuesday night. They will sit on their porches, attend a block party or visit a central National Night Out location.

The National Association of Town Watch started National Night Out in 1984. Its mission is to make neighborhoods safer by bringing residents together and to foster better police-community relationships.

These are two important goals. Town Watch programs are built on neighbors keeping an eye out for each other. If someone spots something unusual, they call the cops. People work together to keep each other safe.

The second goal of building a strong police-community relationship has received greater emphasis in recent years. More police departments are recognizing the importance of reaching out to the residents they serve to build, if not partnerships, at least an understanding among all parties.

National Night Out — along with initiatives such as citizen police academies, “coffee with a cop” events and the like — can promote conversations. Officers get to know residents and their priorities and concerns. Residents interact with officers in a friendly situation and can gain insight to the challenges and dangers police face every day.

National Night Out activities vary from town to town. Some communities throw big bashes complete with food, music and more. Others stick with the more time-honored traditions of block parties, where police, fire and EMS personnel sometimes visit. And other towns may not have a formal event, but residents certainly can get together on their own.

But all towns offer events throughout the year that not only bring neighbors together but also give them a chance to interact with police in a casual setting. Take advantage of those events.

You, your neighbors, your town and your police will benefit. And you’ll have a good time, too.