Salt Lake City police see the difference it makes when neighbors ban together and push back against crime, and Tuesday marks the celebration of that fight.
National Night Out Against Crime, held annually the first Tuesday of August since 1984, is meant to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are united and dedicated to protecting themselves. People traditionally leave their front porch lights on as a symbolic casting out of life's darkness. Then, depending on how involved a community wants to become, some throw block parties, barbecues and parades.
Three communities in Salt Lake City Westpointe, Glendale and East Liberty are throwing parties Tuesday evening (at 1920 W. Colonel Road, 1313 W. California Ave. and 1033 S. Lake St., respectively).
After an afternoon news conference with the mayor and a council member to kick off the celebration, Salt Lake City police and firefighters will show up at the events so residents can get to know the men and women who protect them.
"We function best when we are part of the community, not apart from it," said Salt Lake City police Chief Chris Burbank in a video posted to the department's website promoting Night Out.
National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit, developed the event almost 30 years ago to promote crime prevention programs such as neighborhood watch groups. The Salt Lake City neighborhood watch supervisor, Detective Rick Wall, said the program produces "phenomenal" results.
For example, Liberty Wells, which has a well-established neighborhood watch, has routinely lower crime statistics than neighboring East Liberty, which is working toward establishing its own neighborhood watch group. The area's assigned detective regularly compares the two communities as an example of a watch group's impact.
"I see that time and time and time again," Wall said earlier this month. There are hundreds of neighborhood watch groups in the city, made up of almost 6,000 people. "Once they take a stand and are not going to tolerate anymore, I see it over and over that crime is greatly reduced."