The event, which is free and open to all residents of Jasper, will be held this year from 2 until 6 p.m. at the Percy Goode Gym in Jasper.
National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and partnerships between the police and communities, and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. The program is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and co-sponsored by the Jasper Police Department.
Nationwide, the event draws an estimated 37 million people from more than 10,000 different communities across North America.
“This is a night for America to stand together to promote awareness, safety and neighborhood unity,” said Matt Peskin, the national project coordinator for the event. “National Night Out showcases the vital importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight to build a safer nation.”
Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe is a strong proponent of the program and said bringing the event to Jasper has been a goal since assuming the job as police chief.
“This is such a great opportunity for us, as police, to put ourselves out in the community and let the community come to know us by our names and by our faces,” Rowe said.
Several activities are planned — for both adults and kids — for the National Night Out event in Jasper, including inflatables, a dunking booth called ‘dunk-a-criminal’, a JPD Explorer booth and lots of good food. There will also be free swimming, and a crime poster contest for kids 12 and under. The Jasper Police Department’s McGruff the Crime Dog will be on hand, along with the Jasper Fire Department’s Fire Pup to spend time with the kids. Local radio station Oldies 101.5 FM will be on hand providing music and broadcasting live.
Child ID kits will also be available for parents.
Kids who want to compete in the poster contest are urged to create a poster depicting what they envision as ways to prevent crimes in their neighborhood. Entries should be turned in inside the gym the day of the event by 4 p.m., with the child’s name printed on the back of the poster. Certificates will be presented to all who participate, and small prizes will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place winners.
The event is being held at the Percy Goode Gym this year and is expected to be held at various sites around the city in the future.
Ideally, Rowe said, the event will be held in the future at separate locations in the city’s five districts.
“That’s our goal,” she said. “Ideally, we hope to have an event like this at a larger centralized location or an activity in each of the five districts in the city. That would be great.”
This year’s National Night Out will also serve as the debut of a new program called Project 365, which allows residents in each district to inform police of problem in their communities and allow police to target those areas for the next 365 days.
“People living in each district will put what they feel is the biggest problems on paper and we’ll tally those results,” said Sgt. Jeremy Owens, who’s helping coordinate this year’s National Night Out in Jasper. “Over the next year, we’ll attack those problems in each district.”
At the end of the year, Owens said the police department will ask people living in each district to assess how police did in eliminating the problem.
“Community policing is the cornerstone of modern police work worldwide,” Rowe said. “The theory is that you engage the community and you proactively work toward law enforcement. This is absolutely a perfect example of community policing. You have to establish relationships in a community and you listen to feedback from the community. Statistics are wonderful, but no one knows the community better than the people who live there. What we can gather from the community as far as what their problems are helps us do our job
“That’s the basis for National Night Out,” she added. “It’s a really good reflection of what we want to do as far as community policing.”