Northwest Philadelphia Town Watch groups and officers from the Philadelphia Police Department’s 5th District will team up on Aug. 7 to host the 29th annual National Night Out.
Returning again to Gorgas Park on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, the event – one of over 15,000 to be held nationwide, with over 37 million participants expected – will feature speakers from local civic and town watch groups, as well as the PPD.
In addition, 5th District Police are working to secure the participation of NY Life Insurance, which hosted a popular child-identification program last year.
“You can help send a message to criminals that our neighborhood is organized and fighting back,” said Charles Kline, community-relations officer for the 5th District.
How it began
Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), National Night Out – “America’s Night Out Against Crime” – began in 1984 at the behest of Wynnewood resident and current NATW executive director and National Project Coordinator, Matt Peskin.
“Although it was introduced in Wynnewood, it was never a local thing,” said Peskin in regard to NNO’s origins. He said that while no specific event or events triggered its implementation, “it seemed like the time was right.”
He observed that, at the time, “people were retreating, and hiding behind locked doors.”
“Ninety-nine percent of us are law-abiding citizens,” he continued. “It was a symbolic way of showing how easy it was to combat crime.”
Using pre-existing networks established by NATW, Peskin used newsletters and mailings to help get the word out to the 400 communities that participated in its inaugural year. Since then, the organization has grown to more than 37 million participants and welcomes the opportunities afforded by new media.
In the last few years, Peskin has noticed a dramatic change. Citing the popularity of NNO’s Facebook page, he notes that communities have been – in his words, “egging each other on” – to new levels of participation.
“In ’84, it was all mail, and now, boom, at the push of a button, it’s really taking things to the next level,” Peskin said.
This year’s event in Roxborough will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at Gorgas Park.