By CRISTIN REECE
The fun won’t end when the cops show up to this party.
The Palestine Police Department is holding its 2013 National Night Out celebration from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Reagan Park in Palestine.
According to the department’s web page found on the city’s website, www.cityofpalestinetx.com, National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
“We’re very excited about our upcoming National Night Out event,” Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert said. “The staff has done a tremendous job getting everything together and getting the word out. I think we doubled the number of vendors we have participating this year, from last year.
“We’ve also got several block parties going on throughout the city, which we’re elated about — that gives each neighborhood’s citizens a chance to bond with one another and that’s really the whole point of this event.”
This year’s event includes more than 40 vendors and other exhibits, live music, activities for children, crime prevention and drug awareness educational exhibits, cookouts, exhibits from local businesses, neighborhood watch program information, and an ID program for children.
One booth, which is new to this year’s National Night Out event, is a partnership between local victim assistance agencies to help create awareness of and educate people on how to prevent children and young people from becoming the victim of crimes.
“We wanted to combine our efforts to help make a bigger statement about protecting our children and youth,” said Vicki Halls, a member of Blankets & Bears, a non-profit organization that provides teddy bears and blankets to local law enforcement to give to the children they may come into contact with through the course of their jobs.
“We’re going to have face painting and lots of other fun stuff for the kids to do, but we’re also featuring a raffle for their parents, too,” Halls added.
The national event is marking 30 years this year.
The first National Night Out event was organized in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, 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,” according to the organization’s website, www.natw.org.
The website reports National Night Out now involves over 37 million people and 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie,” NATW Executive Director Matt Peskin stated on the organization’s website. “While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round.
“The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”