National Night Out: What is it, why is it celebrated?

The first Tuesday in August is an evening when people are encouraged to leave the comfort and air conditioning of their homes and gather in their communities as part of the National Night Out.

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What is National Night Out and why is it celebrated each year?

According to the official NNO webpage, “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”

The organization says that millions of people participate each year in all 50 states, U.S. territories and even military bases.

There are technically two National Nights Out, with the primary one on the first Tuesday of August. Texas and some areas celebrate a bit later on the first Tuesday of October.

During the events, communities will host various get-togethers such as:

  • Block parties.
  • Festivals.
  • Parades.
  • Cookouts.
  • Safety demonstrations.
  • Youth events.
  • Exhibits.

How did it start?

National Night Out started with a group founded in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 1970s.

A man named Matt Peskin worked with the Lower Merion Community Watch program and the Lower Merion Police Department. He had reached out to the community via newsletters but it became more difficult to spread the word.

In 1981, he started the National Association of Town Watch to connect various neighborhood watch programs across the country. Three years later, National Night Out was born through law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups and civic organizations. More than 2.5 million people in 400 communities in 23 states took part in the first event.

According to a Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs publication from 2000, the first National Night Out was a “new crime prevention program as a way for people to begin taking back their neighborhoods by gathering in the streets one summer night each year, turning on their house and porch lights, and celebrating their power to control events in the community.”

Where is National Night Out held?

You can visit the NNO website to find events in your local community.