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Neighborhoods celebrate National Night Out

The National Night Out is an annual crime and drug prevention event designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and to strengthen neighborhood and police partnerships. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Turn on a light Tuesday night and tune in to community unity. It’s National Night Out.

The idea and the message behind National Night Out is crime prevention.

“It’s to strengthen that neighborhood spirit between the police and the community,” says Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger.

Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, this is the 31st annual National Night Out.

“Every year it seems to be more of a celebration,” Manger says.

What started out as folks turning lights on and talking with neighbors has “turned into block parties and cookouts and pool parties.”

Manger believes events, such as National Night Out, can make a difference.

“I don’t think you can just say we’re preaching to the choir here. I really do think there’s some folks who sit up and take notice,” Manger says.

Manger recalls a situation a few years ago when people gathered for National Night Out events in an Aspen Hill park that children previously had avoided because of crime and drug activity.

Events in Montgomery County include gatherings in parks, at community pools and in shopping centers.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, the Mount Vernon Police District is celebrating with dozens of block parties or community events including pot luck dinners, cookouts and ice cream socials.

In D.C. the Anacostia River Walk Trail is among locations inviting people to meet local law enforcement agencies amid entertainment, food and fun.

See a list of the communities participating and check out a map of participants.

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