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Building a Safe Community: One Night Out at a Time

Crime levels are lowest in neighborhoods in which there is a sense of community or mutual trust among neighbors, combined with a willingness to get involved in achieving a common good.

South Brunswick is a relatively safe place to live, but it is not crime-free. 

In the past month, this newspaper has reported two different shootings (one with a regular gun, and the other with a pellet gun), two attempted home break-ins (by the same person), theft of checks from a family, and a robbery at a local 7-Eleven. In addition, two arrests were made with regard to a string of car burglaries that took place in the township during April and May

Our police force is excellent, but their numbers are limited. Partnership with the community is essential in maintaining community security. 

Studies have shown that crime levels are lowest in neighborhoods in which there is a sense of community or mutual trust among neighbors, combined with a willingness to get involved in achieving a common good.

When I moved into South Brunswick 36 years ago, I could tell you the names, life history, and values of every family on my block. We made time to interact, compare notes, and share lawn maintenance and snow removal equipment. Our kids played together and everyone kept an eye out for their safety. When families went on vacation, we took in their mail and watched for any intruders.  

Sadly, the times have changed.

Modern technology coupled with a harsh economic environment has stifled these valuable neighbor-to-neighbor communications. The integration of the computer and other smart technology into our daily lives has created isolation. The necessity to work long hours or two jobs limits free time and just "hanging out" with neighbors.

Community-wide celebrations are one powerful antidote for the effects of this interpersonal separation. One such event – National Night Out – is coming up in less than two weeks. Its focus is on building police and community partnerships in order to prevent crime.

Make plans to attend. Get to know the faces of South Brunswick. Make new friends and remind yourself why you chose this township to live in and raise your kids. Meet some of the police, fire fighters, and first-aid members before you need their services.  

National Night Out: What Is It?

On Tuesday, August 2, the 28th Annual National Night Out will be celebrated in more than 15,000 communities in the U.S. and in Canada, with over 37 million people anticipated to attend. 

According to the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the sponsor of this event, the evening is designed to:

  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness
  • Generate support for and participation in local anticrime programs
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police/community partnerships
  • Send a message to criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back*

NATW describes itself as a "non-profit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of organized, law enforcement-affiliated crime and drug prevention programs."

South Brunswick National Night Out

In South Brunswick, this free event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Rowland Park, located near Rowland Road. Organized by our police department, it is indeed a gala, with games, free hot dogs and other food, prizes, and many giveaways.

Most important, you will get a chance to make new friends and interact with other members of our community.

Last year's National Night Out was very successful, with nearly 3,000 residents attending. NATW awarded the South Brunswick police department top honors in New Jersey and ranked it fifth in the nation within our size category (15,000–49,999).

The criteria for judgment for NATW included the strength of overall campaign, neighborhood participation, law enforcement involvement, media and promotional campaign, and special events.

Hopefully, the spark of community generated at this event will encourage neighbors to interact and generate activities such as block parties and/or the creation of some form of a neighborhood watch.  

How to Strengthen Community Every Day

One community (Caspar, California) made a list of year-round behavior we can adopt that will build community after events such as National Night Out are over.** Sample suggestions include: 

  • Turn off your TV (or computer, iPad, or smartphone)
  • Open your shades
  • Know your neighbors
  • Look up when you are walking
  • Greet people
  • Use the library
  • Buy from local merchants
  • Take your children to a local park
  • Support neighborhood schools
  • Talk to the mail carrier
  • Hire young people for odd jobs
  • Share your skills (volunteer) 

Great ideas! What are yours?

http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/about.html

**  http://casparcommons/org/Library/HowToBuild.htm

Judy Shepps Battle July 20, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Steve, could you clarify what special interest, political and/or other groups you are referring to? Perhaps you might also like to go to the National Night Out website and see that the organizers welcome and support the activities South Brunswick is having August 2 and, indeed, awarded our police department first place in NJ for last year's Night Out.
Elaine July 20, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Well Steve, I do believe connecting with neighbors is what you will need to do, let it be in your own neighborhood or attending a community event. I think when you feel a part of something, whether it is a government sponsored event with hidden agendas or what not, it is your opportunity to make it more for yourself. Sure, National Night may have started with a goal of bringing community together to reduce crime. It may have transformed into something else in time, but it still open to YOU and the community to make it more. I think when a community feels some sort of bond to their neighborhood, it has a direct affect on crime rate. The township is putting a serving of food on your plate, now is the time for you to pick up the fork.
Judy Shepps Battle July 20, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Might I just add, that in some communities in other parts of the country and in Canada that are celebrating National Night Out, all they are able to do is encourage folks to turn on the porch light for that evening. We are really fortunate in South Brunswick to have a police force that is taking the time to organize the community celebration of NNO. It has been a while since we had Community Unity Day and I believe South Brunswick needs celebrations like this.
raymond Weis July 20, 2011 at 08:40 PM
As you know doing what I do I am out at all kinds of odd hours day and night. I try and make it a practice to be on the look out for anything suspicious. You never know what might be happening. If somebody is having trouble getting in to a car or house I don't assume they just mislayed their keys and I will contact the police. I don't advocate trying to stop anyone unless somebody's life is in imminent danger and even then think twice before you put your life in danger.
Judy Shepps Battle July 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Very good advice, Ray. More good can be safely done by just calling 911 on your cell phone!

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