This year will be the 29th time National Night Out has been held in cities across the country. But this year will be the first time the Andover Police Department has conducted the event as it was meant to be.
This unique crime/drug prevention event, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 7. It is designed to strengthen relationships between the community and its local police department.
“National Night Out came from the east coast in bigger cities where it was kind of a take back your neighborhood from crime,” Andover Police Chief Mike Keller said. “Get out of the back yard and into the front yard and meet your neighbors kind of idea. It’s grown nationally all over the country.”
In the past, the Andover Police Department has conducted this event as more of a community party in the park, serving up free food like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and beverages.
There have been other activities, too. For instance, the Andover Fire Department usually brought a truck with a spray nozzle for the kids. There has been the DUI golf cart, the Kansas Highway Patrol rollover vehicle, basketball goals, dunk tanks, tae kwon do demonstrations, dance teams, YMCA, soccer clinics, and music with live bands or DJs.
“What we were doing wasn’t quite in the spirit of National Night Out,” Keller said. “It was a good event. We’ve had great participation from the community and we didn’t want to give that up, but wanted to make some changes.”
Last year, an explosion just hours before National Night Out was scheduled to begin tied up all of Andover’s emergency resources. That forced the event to be moved from its customary Tuesday to a Saturday. The turnout was just as good as past years, so the fire department came on board, and the Andover Police and Fire Festival was created.
Many of the former National Night Out activities mention above were included in this year’s festival, which was held in June. That enabled the Police Department to plan a more traditional National Night Out this year.
“For National Night Out, we’re taking it to the neighborhoods,” Keller said. “We had hoped to have three or four neighborhoods host parties. We’ve actually got six this year who are hosting parties.”
Those neighborhoods are Crescent Lakes, Cornerstone North, Lakeview Heights, Greenvalley 5&6, Greenvalley 7, 8 and 9, and Terradyne. Each neighborhood is hosting a party with a different theme, like an ice cream social or a pool party.
Only one neighborhood has asked the police department to close streets for its party. The department is also providing each neighborhood with signs to put at both ends of their neighborhood advertising the National Night Out event.
Page 2 of 2 - Various officers, including the one assigned for each participating neighborhood, will go around to the parties. Look for K-9, McGruff and others to be making the rounds as well.
Three individuals will judge each party on its theme, creativity and overall participation. Keller said the Police Department would award a first- and second-place prize to the top two neighborhoods that have the biggest and best parties.
“The intent has always been to do it the way it’s planned, to get people out of their neighborhoods,” Keller said. “The intent is to get out and meet your neighbors so you can keep an eye on their property, they keep an eye on your property. They’re more likely to call if they see something suspicious.”
Keller cited three goals of National Night Out. The most important is for people to get out, socialize and meet their neighbors.
“They may even meet other neighbors they hadn’t met before,” Keller said. “Or they may know their name but haven’t really talked with them.”
Another goal is to open up lines of communications between the Police Department and the neighborhoods. It’s a time when officers can go around to the parties and meet folks in a more relaxed atmosphere.
And the third goal: Well, that’s pretty simple, Keller said -- just “have a good time.”