Newton, MA – The Newton Police Department, for the first time in history, has decided to participate in the yearly community-building event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), National Night Out. The night aims to bridge the gap between members of the police force and members of the local community they serve. A statement from the police explains the event as one which bolsters “neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safe, more caring places to live.”
The campaign originated in Texas, in the year 1984. There, a group of neighbors sat in front of their houses, with their porch lights on, as a way to express their views. The earliest National Night Out pulled a total participation of 2.5 million residents from 400 neighborhoods and 23 states. After 35 years, the event has drawn in 38 million individuals from 16,000 US communities. In Massachusetts, past community participants include Boston, Waltham, and Arlington.
According to Justin Lau, a community outreach officer for the Newton Police Department, the decision to participate in National Night Out for the first time is part of a larger initiative. The community outreach officer jobs were established in Newton last year to aid in the development of community-police relations. National Night Out is just one way for these officers to help cultivate that relationship.
A main aim of the event, especially due to concerns across the United States regarding police brutality and officer-civilian relations, is to give officers a chance to present themselves in a more personal manner, attempting to remind residents that the officers’ intent is to protect and not to harm. These events allow residents to interact with members of the police force in a casual setting and engage them in conversation about widespread issues, local policy, or more personal and informal topics.
The Newton Falls event involves a wide variety of activities. There will be a large array of food, a bouncy house, face painting, a DJ, and a dunk tank where residents can attempt to dunk a Newton police officer. The night will take place on Tuesday, August 7th, right near the Newton Police Station.