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National Night Out events link communities, police

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2011

Police and residents across the region will take to the streets Tuesday for National Night Out, an annual event that attempts to fight crime by bolstering relationships between communities and law enforcement agencies.

At dozens of events in neighborhoods and shopping centers across the region, police will offer crime-prevention and safety tips as well as activities such as barbecues and bike tours to rally support for a joint effort in fighting crime.

In the District, the Metropolitan Police Department will begin its kickoff event at 6 p.m. at the Deanwood Recreation Center in Northeast. Among the scheduled presentations will be one on preventing bullying.

Events are planned in each of the District's seven police districts, though in several of them community members have organized additional activities.

In the 3rd District, the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District is organizing a police-led bike tour. The tour will give community members an opportunity to hear from police and political leaders about crime problems and upcoming developments in the area, said one of the ride's organizers, Erik Kugler.

"It's a great interaction with bike-patrol policemen who chase down criminals on their bicycles," said Mr. Kugler, owner of the Bicycle Space bike shop.

The hourlong ride starts at 6 p.m. at 555 Massachusetts Ave. NW and ends with a cookout at Golden Rule Plaza at New Jersey Avenue and K Street Northwest.

In Montgomery County, several police departments plan to showcase their specialized units, including canine, SWAT and horse-mounted units and allow residents to take pictures with officers and their animals, said county police spokeswoman Blanca Kling.

The evening gives the department an opportunity to connect with residents and encourages community participation in crime fighting by asking residents to report crime or suspicious activity, she said.

"We only have 1,100 officers, and the population is close to 1 million, so it is very hard for us to be everywhere," said Ms. Kling, emphasizing the role the community has to play in preventing and reporting crime.

The Montgomery County Police Department expects more than 30 community events to be held across the county.

Several event locations also will offer resources for parents to help protect their children. From 7 to 9 p.m. at Rockville's Stoneymill shopping center, and from 5 to 7 p.m. at the District's Hearst Recreation Center, parents can get their children fingerprinted and photographed so they have that information on file in case their children go missing.

In Prince George's County, where police have registered more than 40 mostly community-organized events, officers will be on hand to distribute safety tips and talk about year-round community-led programs such as Neighborhood Watch.

To find the location of a local National Night Out event, residents can visit http://nationalnightout.org/nno/ or contact their local police department.

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