Thirty-five years ago the National Association of Town Watch suggested that Americans declare their united determination to fight neighborhood crime through the simple act of switching on their porch lights at the same time on the same evening. About 2.5 million residents in 400 communities across 23 states did so.

From that seed emerged the enormous National Night Out community gathering that last year drew 38 million Americans in 16,000 communities across all 50 states.

National Night Out has become a major national event, and police departments in Sarpy County, along with the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office, have done their part to make it so. The event is held the first Tuesday in August — in La Vista at various neighborhood parties, in Bellevue at Everett Park but also at separate neighborhood parties, and in Papillion at Werner Park.

The Papillion event begins at 5 p.m., the events in Bellevue and La Vista at 7 p.m.

Those many Sarpy County residents who have attended past Night Out parties will surely testify that this evening of food and fun, mixed with an opportunity to get to know your neighbors under hopefully balmy skies, is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience.

Police officers are highly likely to stop by, usually laden with fun trinkets for the kids, and sometimes with a motorcycle or even a dog to display. The streets, of course, are closed off, turning all that asphalt into a party floor.

The fun aspect of National Night Out is of course what has made this partnership between the National Association of Town Watch and police departments such a great success.

Nevertheless, a serious purpose underlies all the jollity. This event was conceived, and has grown large, for the purpose of deterring neighborhood crime such as burglaries, car break-ins and other forms of petty but deeply invasive criminal activity.

National Night Out is just a reminder that the police can’t be everywhere, and that the effectiveness of their work can be greatly enhanced if we keep our eyes open, watch out for out neighbors and report activity that seems suspicious.

Have a great evening Tuesday. Enjoy the food and chatting with your neighbors.

But don’t forget: If you see something, say something.

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