National Night Out Observances Set For Tuesday

Criminals beware: communities across the nation are rallying their troops against you.

More than 115,000 San Antonio residents are expected to join the millions nationwide who will gather outside to fight crime Tuesday for the 21st annual National Night Out.

Locally, the theme is “Show Us Your F.F.A.N.” families, friends and neighbors to encourage them to gather in the muggy August air and keep cool using handmade fans.

“We’re asking everyone to get out in the heat, so this way you can fan yourself and you can show your involvement in the community by creating the fans,” said Lisa Castillo, special projects officer for the San Antonio Police Department in charge of volunteers and policing. “You can show you are part of the fan club to support National Night Out.”

From 6 p.m.-10 p.m., residents will turn on their porch lights and spend the evening on porches, lawns, front steps and community areas. Events will range from mega-cookouts with moonwalks and disc jockeys to informal groupings.

The idea is to heighten awareness of crime and drug prevention, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police/community relations and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods nationwide are organized and fighting back, officials say.

“There’s not enough officers to take care of all the criminal activity in the city,” Castillo said. “We need the citizens to look out for themselves and encourage them to get involved.”

Last year’s event attracted 486 registered community groups for a total of 115,000 people. Because of the high participation, San Antonio was awarded first place in the nation for the 300,000-and-above population category.

San Antonio events include a 1 p.m. proclamation signing at City Council Chambers at City Hall on Thursday, where some hand-held fans will be distributed, and a 10 a.m. National Night Out lighting ceremony on the front steps of City Hall next Tuesday.

This year’s event also will include a message sent from the International Space Station through NASA TV to all National Night Out areas. News stations around the nation will broadcast the message.

Eddie Ramirez, special projects officer in charge of Cellular on Patrol in San Antonio, said the key to crime prevention is neighbors working together.

“It’s getting to know your next-door neighbor, the people on either side of you or the person across the street,” he said. “The nosy neighbor, you have to get that person a real big meal and a big hug because that’s the one that protects us.”

In the West Side community of Prospect Hill, from about 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., neighbors can gather at the Advocates Center, 1610 Buena Vista St., or the Sacred Heart Church, 2114 W. Houston St. Food and beverages will be available at both locations.

Activities for kids will be available at the Advocates Center. Kids and adults also can take advantage of free boxing lessons provided by the center. The lessons are available to the community year-round at the center.

“They’re here and not out committing crimes. They’re here and learning discipline,” Jason Mata, co-chairman of the Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association, said of those taking the lessons.

The neighborhood association has partnered with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department to hold a Child ID program session at Sacred Heart Church. Officers will fingerprint children and keep those prints on file.

On the Northwest Side, The Park at Colonnade will celebrate with a moonwalk, food and music played by a disc jockey. The apartment complex also signed up for visits from firefighters, San Antonio Fear Free Environment officers and the Spurs coyote, plus a flyover by the police department’s helicopter.

Claudette Torres, complex manager, said National Night Out is the biggest event each year. All the fun is in the name of crime fighting, she said.

“Of course we have police officers, but we have to do our part, too,” she said. “I think neighborhoods and communities need to come together. You need to know your neighbors and help each other out.

“The more people that get involved, the better we can fight crime.”

Each year, members of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association have individual block parties to mark National Night Out. Last year there were 28 block parties in the community, which has almost 4,900 homes and about 17,000 people, said Roger Burton, security chief with the Great Northwest security department.

“We have quite a few block parties in this area,” he said. “We really try to encourage our block captains to do that.”

Ramirez said each party does more to spread awareness about crime.

“We’re short of manpower, and they are expanding the city of San Antonio,” he said. “With the combination of both, we need the citizens to be the eyes and ears of the department and look out for each other in case the situation gets worse. That’s the best preventative.”

Registration packets are available at local police substations, online at www.sanantonio.gov/sapd/nno2004.asp or by calling (210) 207-8865.

Suburban activities include:
llaurel@express-news.net

 

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