Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Meet police, eat at crime 'going-away' parties

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Eat a hot dog, talk to your neighbors, meet the police.

It's National Night Out tonight, and communities across the Tristate will host "going-away parties" for drugs and crime. The premise: The better residents work with each other and police, the more effective they can be in keeping crime from their backyards.

In Newport, officers and city officials will sit on a dunking machine, inviting expert throwers. In Mason, police and firefighters will fill a parking lot with anti-crime booths and games for kids. In Avondale, a three-day Lincoln Park festival will end with back-to-school wellness checks and a talent show.

The gatherings are part of the 20th annual National Night Out, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit collection of neighborhood anti-crime groups based in Wynnewood, Pa. Picnics, concerts and crime-prevention talks will be going on in more than 9,800 communities around the country.

Ault Park will host its fourth annual Night Out party, the biggest such observance in Cincinnati.

The event drew more than 3,000 people last year. It grew quickly from the first one, when volunteers outnumbered the guests.

Since then, "we've done a lot of work in just making it fun for kids and their parents," said Tom Meyer, a past president of Ault Park Advisory Council, which organizes the event. "We wanted to remove the obstacles. That's why we have the food - parents can come right after work and feed their kids there."

In Mount Adams, bars and restaurants donated food and drinks. In Winton Place, they'll be snacking on grilled tortilla pizza and watching an animal show. In Middletown, people can check out the Butler County Sheriff's helicopter and license their dogs for half-price.

Gloria Morgan of District 3's resource and community relations committee said the events can lead to longer-term community involvement that prevents crime. "We just want to have people bring their kids and pet the horsie. And maybe they'll get to know the police. We need people to educate themselves."

Local observances of National Night Out

Local events marking the 20th annual National Night Out against crime tonight include opportunities to mingle with police officers, demonstrations of police equipment, food and music. Most are 6-9 p.m., except as noted. Police ask people attending the events to lock their doors and turn on their outside lights.

Avondale: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Lincoln Park.

Ault Park: 7:30 p.m. in the pavilion; ceremony to honor officers who also are members of military reserve units.

Erlanger: 6 p.m., Brightleaf subdivision off Narrows Road.

Mason: Thriftway parking lot, 1065 Reading Road.

Middletown: 5-9 p.m., Douglass Park, Verity and Lafayette streets.

Mount Adams: Monastery parking lot.

Newport: 6-9:30 p.m., parking lot at Fourth and Columbia streets; 8:50 p.m., ringing of Peace Bell.

Paddock Hills: 7-9 p.m., ice-cream socials in six homes.

Westwood: 7-9 p.m. Westwood Elementary School.

Winton Place: 6-8 p.m. Winton Commons Park.


E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com

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