National Night Out returns to St. Albans on Tuesday for an evening of fun activities and an opportunity to raise awareness about crime prevention.
Cosponsored by the St. Albans City Police Department, Voices Against Violence and the Community Justice Center, National Night Out is brought to Taylor Park annually to introduce people to local service providers and impart a sense of community. This will be the event’s seventh year in St. Albans, said Lt. Ron Hoague of the police department.
Taking place all over the country on Tuesday, the event in St. Albans will provide fun activities for families and children, said Amanda Rohdenburg, outreach advocate and educator for Voices Against Violence and one of the event’s organizers.
Rohdenburg said the evening will include a story walk around the park, emergency services vehicles such as fire trucks for kids to explore and a bouncy house to play in, among other activities.
For the adults, there will be a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction, with proceeds benefitting Laurie’s House (Voices-run women’s shelter) and the Parallel Justice Fund. Rohdenburg said Voices and the Community Justice Center collaborated on setting the fund up to help victims of crime.
But the National Night Out event won’t be all fun and games, Rohdenburg said.
“On top of all the fun stuff, we’ll have tables of community service providers,” she said. Besides the Community Justice Center and Voices Against Violence, there will be informational tables from the Vermont Health Department and others, Rohdenburg said.
If the event’s attendance from past years is any sign, plenty of people should show up Tuesday at Taylor Park, Rohdenburg said. She said last year, judging by the attended the National Night Out.
“We usually have great attendance,” Rohdenburg said.
Rohdenburg noted that the weather looks promising for Tuesday evening.
Although participation in the event has been strong, Rohdenburg said organizers this year developed a strategy to boost attendance. She said they put up fliers all around doctors and dentist offices in the area to draw people who might not have normally attended a large-scale community event.
“We were really trying to reach out to a different range of our community,” Rohdenburg said.
From the police perspective, National Night Out is a way to build their presence within the community, Hoague said. He said several of the city’s police officers will be in attendance wearing plain clothes and interacting with residents.
“It kind of shows them that police officers are people, too, not just uniforms,” Hoague said.
Hoague said he’s seen residents develop neighborhood watches and take initiative to watch after each other after previous annual National Night Out events. His goal moving forward, he said, is to start including more individuals who might not have as strong a connection within a neighborhood or with their fellow residents.
“I’d like to see more individuals get involved and help each other out,” Hoague said. “It’d be nice to have a little more face-to-face time with some of these people.”
All activities and food – provided by Voices Against Violence, the Community Justice Center and the St. Albans City Police Department – are free for all. The event runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Taylor Park.
Swanton, which also has held an annual event, will do so again on Saturday, Aug. 17, on the village green. That event will be held in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Swanton’s charter.
National Night Out was started by the non-profit National Association of Town Watch (NATW) as an event to serve as America’s “night out against crime,” according to the NATW’s Web site. Started in 1984, the event now includes more than 15,000 communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories, military bases and Canadian cities. More than 37 million people participate every year, according to the NATW.