By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Around 40 neighborhoods across Norman celebrated National Night Out on Tuesday, receiving visits from Norman police and fire as well as city council members.
Norman Police Sgt. Jennifer Newell said last year, only about 22 neighborhoods participated. The event is typically hosted in August across the nation, but with Norman moving it to October with cooler weather, Newell said the cooler weather likely drew more people to participate.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “We’ve had a really good turnout.”
With 40 separate events going on across the city, Newell said it helps make it more personal for each neighborhood.
“It’s harder to turn your back on someone you know,” she said, adding that when neighbors know each other, they’re more likely to know when there’s suspicious activity, and it makes for a safer neighborhood.
Target also has helped with the events, donating gift cards to some participating neighborhoods.
National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts; and send a message to criminals, letting them know neighborhoods care and will not be victimized.
Some of the neighborhoods The Transcript visited for National Night Out included:
· Glen Oaks Court: “The community hasn’t been the greatest, and we’re trying to make it better,” resident Kelli Brown said. With a lot of multi-family housing in the community she said they’re trying to clean up the neighborhood and let incoming residents know they’re trying to make the area a safer place to live and keep a lookout for any suspicious activity.
· Summit Lakes Park: “I think it’s helpful,” resident Justin Westmoreland said. “It makes it safer.” Westmoreland said he thinks it’s a great idea because you get to meet your neighbors, and the more people you know, the more people you can help. He also said the event helps him feel connected to other people living in the area.
· Virginia Street area: “We just know each other and we all appreciate it,” resident Miranda Arana said. “It makes us feel connected.” She said new neighbors are always encouraged to attend National Night Out, which they’ve been doing for 10 years, as well as other social events hosted in the neighborhood. When people are out going for a walk, seeing a familiar face helps strengthen that neighborly connection, as well.
· Memorial Presbyterian Church: “I feel like it’s important that our neighborhood knows we care about them whether they go to church here or not,” said Larry Upton, an elder at the church. “(The police) had 40 events to go to tonight, and they made time for us –– that really meant a lot to us.” Upton said he thinks it’s especially important that churches reach out to the community, and Memorial Presbyterian will continue to do so later this month with “Trunk or Treat.”