- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2016

The 33rd annual National Night Out kickoff event in the District on Tuesday aims to bring together local law enforcers and residents at River Terrace Park in Northeast in an effort to have fun amid lessons in crime prevention.

“Across the country, we’re trying to address these relationships and provide opportunities to know, hear and support one another,” said Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, spokeswoman for the National Park Service. “It’s always easier when you know the person you’re talking to.”

Tuesday evening’s event will include a rock climbing wall, a bike parade with community members and U.S. Park Police, and a three-on-three basketball game between law enforcement officials, national park rangers and residents.

The bike parade is “a great opportunity for neighborhood kids to come out and ride on the Anacostia River Trail with people who keep the community safe and to break down some of those barriers,” Ms. Anzelmo-Sarles said.

Recent police shootings and attacks on officers have fueled the conversation about police and community relations.

National Night Out provides an outlet for these divided groups to come together and understand one another. The event is an example of community policing, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics defines as “a strategy involving partnerships between the police and community to address safety and crime.”

Matt Peskin founded National Night Out in 1984 to emphasize a community’s strength in numbers against crime.

Community participation has surged in the program since its inception. According to National Night Out’s website, 2.5 million people in 400 communities participated by sitting on their front porch for an hour with the lights on in August 1984.

Currently, 38 million participants in the United States, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide celebrate National Night Out on the first Tuesday of August by hosting block parties.

People passing by River Terrace Park can expect to hear music and see people gathered for food and games, just like any outdoor gathering.

“This is a great way to break bread and break the ice so the community knows who we are and what we’re about,” said Sgt. Anna Rose, public information officer for the U.S. Park Police. “We’ll be there in our uniforms, but they’ll know that we’re people and we’ll get to know them in the same way.”

The Metropolitan Police Department has planned National Night Out events for each police district that will coincide with the kickoff event. A calendar with times and locations is available on the Metropolitan Park Police website.

The kickoff event will run from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at River Terrace Park, located on Anacostia Avenue at Benning Road NE.

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