- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Thousands of crime-fighting neighborhoods in the metropolitan Washington area turned on their porch lights, locked their doors and went outside to celebrate National Night Out yesterday with block parties, barbecues, candlelight vigils and crime walks in coordination with local police, politicians and the National Association of Town Watch (NATW).
The District kicked off its celebration at Brentwood Recreation Center in Northeast, where Mayor Anthony A. Williams joined D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat; Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey; D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat; and other public officials in addressing a crowd of around 300 residents.
"We all have to make a determination to get crime going back down in the right direction," Mr. Williams said, alluding to the 30 percent rise in homicides in the District this year.
"Folks, we need to be out, because crime is up," Mrs. Norton said. "Don't just blame the cops. That's the biggest cop-out of all we all have a job to do if, in fact, we are going to chase this crime down."
At Brentwood there was free food, McDuff the Crime Dog, WKYS 93.9 FM broadcast live and a team of local police officers who played basketball against members of the community.
In Arlington, 16 local communities held block parties and ice cream parties. Arlington County Police Chief Edward A. Flynn visited Woodberry Park and other communities.
Several hundred people came out to the Beltsville/Laurel District VI Police Station, where U.S. Park Police were on horseback and the Army allowed children to wear "fatal vision" glasses, which simulate what it looks like to be drunk, while riding a bicycle.
The county fire department showed off its bomb-squad robot.
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Republican, arrived to meet and talk with residents. His opponent, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Democrat, also was scheduled to attend.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Police Chief Charles A. Moose visited National Night Out events in Olney and Lyttonsville.
NATW estimates that more than 32 million people in 9,500 communities from all 50 states and U.S. territories, as well as from Canadian cities and military bases worldwide took part in the 19th annual National Night Out.
Roughly as many people participated last year. National Night Out began in 1984 and attracted 2.5 million in 400 communities nationwide.
Police spokesmen said 80 Fairfax County communities were scheduled to take part in National Night Out, as well as 16 communities in Arlington County, and roughly 25 in Montgomery County. Prince George's County police Chief Gerald Wilson said there were at least five celebrations in the county.
There were 73 events, almost one for every police service area, scheduled last night in the District.
There were softball and basketball games, moon bounces, face painting, horse rides, swimming, bingo, potato sack races, music concerts, safety seminars, bike registrations, meet and greets with local police, police station open houses, a high-visibility Prostitution Enforcement Campaign in Northwest, a Watch Your Car event for seniors in Northeast and a going-away party for crime and drugs in Southeast.
"It makes the community better between the police and the younger people," said Brian Ross, 25, of Northeast.
"Instead of people coming outside worrying about violence, they can come outside and have fun," said Shaun Murphy, 23, before sprinting off to play basketball at the Brentwood Recreation Center. "It's a nice safe environment outside."
After a string of several days of smothering heat, the 80 degree weather also made the environment downright pleasant.
Most of the region's Night Out activities began between 4 and 6 p.m., but for the first time the Metropolitan Police's 1st District held a midday barbecue at the station house. They have participated in nighttime National Night Out events since about 1998, Sgt. Rene Davis said.
There are a lot of office thefts in the 1st District, said Police Sgt. Valerie Steward. "We're reaching out to the business community to show them what to look for," she said.
Denice Peoples, 44 and her co-worker Angela Mozie, 43, strolled up the street from their jobs at the Office of the Controller of Currency during their lunch break.
"I'm enjoying this food," she said
Miss Mozie said she came for the food, but noticed brochures for free health care were on display. As they sat eating hamburgers, Sgt. Davis, the event organizer, walked by to promote an upcoming event to collect school supplies for children going back to school.
Miss Peoples and Miss Mozie sat in the station house's classroom, as music blared from a stereo and the cool afternoon breeze blew in through the open door and windows.
"This is beautiful," Miss Peoples said.
H.J. Brier contributed to this report.

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