Pennsylvanians can take to the streets Tuesday advocating for crime prevention and getting to know their first responders as part of the 32nd annual National Night Out Against Crime.
Founder Matt Peskin said 356 neighborhoods and municipalities have registered statewide, including more than 50 in the Pittsburgh area alone.
The city has participated in the national event almost since its inception, public safety community outreach coordinator Liz Style said. It began as an effort to bridge gaps between police and the citizens they serve, she said.
“It’s a city-wide celebration that happens at the local level,” Style said, “an event to bring neighbors outside of their homes to deliver a message to criminals that people (aren’t) going to stay in their houses anymore.”
Organizers nationwide were encouraged to mold their events to highlight neighborhoods’ unique needs and flavors.
Bethel Park police Det. Joelle Dixon is leading the borough’s inaugural effort. For newbies, she suggested block parties, sidewalk art, lemonade stands, dog walks, potluck dinners, banners and just leaving a porch light on.
“We have people who registered kind of all over the gamut,” she said.
Homewood gardening initiatives, summer fairs in Lincoln Place, game nights in Spring Garden and a series of small porch parties on the edge of Point Breeze top Pittsburgh’s list of 45 events scattered across the city.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday he planned to open he and First Lady Frances Wolf’s residence in Harrisburg for the night. Events are also registered in Aliquippa, Aspinwall, Bellevue, Bridgeville, Chambersburg, Homestead, McKeesport, Monroeville, Monaca, New Kensington, Penn Hills, Pleasant Hills, Turtle Creek and Wilmerding, among others.
Participants were asked to detail their events in advance so EMS, fire, police and animal control officers could coordinate and hit as many parties as possible. City spokesman Tim McNulty said Mayor Bill Peduto and other city administrators plan to attend a handful by night’s end.
With planning, Style said, “More of us can get out and around to visit all of those events, see what the successes in those different neighborhoods have been, and get a sense of what problems still exist in an atmosphere that’s a little different than a monthly meeting.”
In addition to informal celebrations, some party planners like those in the South Side Flats said they also hope to talk to neighbors about more serious issues, like how to fund private surveillance and security similar to recent efforts in Carrick that go beyond what the city can offer or afford.
“That particular neighborhood is going to use National Night Out … to provide more information on that initiative and really get people signed up and get it moving,” Style said.
Most public safety and crime prevention offices will be coordinating new events through noon Tuesday. Check online for a full listing of state and local events.