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National Night Out
Basis History & Purpose
National Night Out (NNO) began in 1984, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW). The effort started by recognizing that America was becoming much more urban. This was transforming communities in many ways, not all of which were positive. Historically, when America consisted of predominately rural areas, neighbors knew one another and they looked out for one another.

As urban areas grew and people commuted to work, neighbors routinely did not know one another as they once did. Everyone took the attitude of looking out only for themselves and generally did not get involved in the affairs of others. Crime became more abundant and police and crime prevention groups began to explore ways to combat this dilemma. From this the concept of a neighborhood watch program started.

National Night Out was the concentrated effort by the NATW to keep neighbors outside to meet their neighbors. That first year, about 2.5 million Americans in 400 communities in 23 states participated. In 2006, NNO saw 35.2 million participants in 11,125 communities in all 50 states. Neighbors are encouraged to turn on their porch lights and go outside and meet their neighbors. From this, many communities now sponsor block parties with games for kids, cookouts for everyone, visits by local police and fire departments and a whole host of other events.

Little Elm's Participation History

As recently as 2004, Little Elm did not celebrate National Night Out as a community-wide event. Several individual neighborhoods participated but there was no focal point to spur involvement. Most neighborhoods did not have an organized group nor did they have any one individual who could spark interest in doing something within their specific neighborhood.

Open House

Since there was very little individual neighborhood involvement, the Little Elm Police Department, through its Community Services division, elected to host an open house at their station in 2005. That first year there was a very small showing of people, estimated to be less than 100. Not to be deterred, the Department advertised more heavily the following year, brought in exhibits for kids and furnished free hot dogs and cold drinks. The turnout was much better that year, with roughly 300 hot dogs served and an estimated attendance of over 1000 persons.

In 2007, the effort continued and the department ran out of 600 hot dogs within two hours and more people coming. It was estimated that over 2,000 folks attended, out of a Town of roughly 24,000, almost 10% of the population. At the same time, more individual subdivisions had formed active Neighborhood Watch groups and elected to hold their own block parties, effectively increasing the participation to well over 10%.

Change of Date

Two very big changes happened in 2008. The date for NNO was moved to October, as a test. Historically, NNO happened on the first Tuesday in August. Many southern states repeatedly requested over the years that the date be changed to a later month, since August weather is often unbearably hot. Northern states generally objected because by October many of them are already experiencing cold weather. The NATW also originally objected but as individual departments and/or whole states began to withdraw from participation and started to form alternative organizations, NATW reconsidered. They announced in January, 2008, that they would allow a "test" of an alternative date only for the State of Texas. The alternative date for Texas was the first Tuesday in October. Texas thus became the nationwide test state for NATW to decide whether or not to allow alternative dates in the future.

The test was a resounding success. As it had in many years past, Texas won the National award for the best participation of any of the states. Many Texas agencies also won National acclaim for their individual departments. This not only affirmed that Texas was a key state for NATW to retain in their program, but also that the "test" should now be allowed as a permanent alternative date.

Shortly after this success, NATW announced nationwide that in the future, NNO would be celebrated on one of two dates, at the sole option of the individual participating agencies in every state. The dates are the first Tuesday of either August or October.

Future of National Night Out
In almost every instance, Texas agencies reported a much greater participation by their citizens as a result of the more tolerable temperatures. They also expressed their gratitude in being allowed to select among the two alternative dates, at their sole discretion, while still being allowed to compete nationally. The fact that all agencies in all states are now given the option of selecting either of the two established dates gives everyone the opportunity to pick the best date for their communities, while still competing with all other agencies nationwide as they all had done historically.

All in all, it was a great compromise that helped preserve the heritage and traditions of National Night Out.

Local National Night Out
Beginning in 2008, the department discontinued holding an open house at the station. Rather, now that more and more active neighborhood watch groups have formed, involvement in NNO was pushed back out to the individual neighborhoods, in accordance with the original, founding concept for NNO. The department continued to be actively involved by sending officers to all registered parties, along with bags of handouts with information and goodies. Prior to the actual night, concerted efforts were made to encourage existing active neighborhood watch groups to grow, to form new groups and to reactivate existing, dormant ones.

Little Elm Officers and Town Officials attended over 15 block parties, held all over Town. Many block parties served barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs or other food to those in attendance. There were bounce houses at some, face paintings at others, contests of all sorts and fun by all. One block party set up a projector and showed a family oriented movie against a closed garage door. While exact estimates are difficult to determine, since all of the events were come and go, we conservatively estimate that well over 1,500 people of all ages attended one of more of the block parties.

NNO works hand in hand with Neighborhood Watch to promote their concepts and programs. Neighborhood Watch groups use NNO to boost involvement in their programs and garner more involvement and support. It would be difficult for one to exist without the other.

Due to the success, Little Elm plans to continue to encourage and support block parties out in the neighborhoods to build on the success their program has enjoyed for about four years now.

Learn More
The National Association of Town Watch has a very good website showing participation and awards for past events.

Another great resource is the National Neighborhood Watch Association (NNWI). This site has signs, forms and other items available for purchase.

Both have lots of good information and related links to others on the same topic.

To express your individual desire to participate in a watch group, either by starting a new group or joining an existing one fill out the form entitled Neighborhood Watch Indication of Interest.

To obtain more information concerning National Night Out or , please contact our Community Services Division via email or at (972) 377-1885.