- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Every neighborhood throughout the region, from Gaithersburg to the District to Northern Virginia, will join in the 18th annual National Night Out celebration tonight to bring about awareness of crime-prevention organizations and their supporters.

"National Night Out celebrates the spirit of cooperation between police and citizens," said Lt. John Crawford, Alexandria police spokesman.

Representatives of local and national law enforcement agencies, crime-prevention organizations, members of Congress and the D.C. Council will make special appearances throughout the evening, starting at 7 p.m.

"This will be our fourth year participating, and each year our support base grows," said Kevin Hawkins, director of the Plymouth and Bradford Streets Neighborhood Watch.

Mr. Hawkins lives in Silver Spring and his organization of neighborhood crime watchers is one of more than 60 participating locally in National Night Out.

"What inspires me to do this is the effect I see on the people coming together to improve their community," he said.

The event, started in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, has grown every year and become popular in most cities. Today, more than 30 million people from about 9,500 communities are expected to participate in this year's festivities.

"Crime has dropped to its lowest rate since 1965, due in large part to our strong partnership with the community," Lt. Crawford said.

The same is true in the District, where the Metropolitan Police Department has shifted a lot of its focus to community outreach, whether it is the Clergy-Police Community Partnership located east of the Anacostia River, or the temporary police-community outreach stations.

"We have a commitment to do this. Getting residents to trust us is the name of the game in getting crimes solved and preventing crime," said Assistant Chief Mike Fitzgerald. "National Night Out is only one program we utilize to further our presence in the community."

In Alexandria, Mayor Kerry J. Donley and members of the City Council will visit residents throughout the city, as will McGruff the crime dog cartoon character and U.S. Park Police.

The Silver Spring festivities take place in Flower Avenue Park at the intersection of Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road.

In the District, there will be a block party behind the Myrtilla Miner Elementary School at 601 15th St. NE. Every police commander, assistant chiefs, and Chief Charles A. Ramsey are expected to attend as is congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat.

For information on National Night Out, call your local police department or visit the Web site, www.nationaltownwatch.org .

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