- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Hundreds of law enforcement agencies are hoping to build rapport within their communities during a national police event on Tuesday that comes amid an uptick in gun violence.

The 38th annual “National Night Out” is being held nearly a month after more than 550 people nationwide were reportedly shot during the Fourth of July weekend.

Moreover, at least 67 police officers have been shot this year in ambush-style attacks, which are up 126% compared to the same time last year, according to July 31 data from the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Event organizers say the community-building campaign is aimed at “promoting police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie” across all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases around the globe.

“Neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much, much more,” according to the event website.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is set to attend National Night Out events in the District hosted by the Metropolitan Police Department.

“Law enforcement is most effective when it has the trust and support of the communities it serves,” Mr. Garland said in a statement Tuesday. “That is why events like National Night Out are so important and effective; they help to bridge the gap between neighbors and their police departments in a positive and informal setting.”

Other Justice Department officials are slated to attend National Night Out activities held by police departments in Baltimore and Newark, New Jersey. The initiative was established in 1984 using funds from a Justice Department Bureau of Justice Assistance grant.

National Police Association spokesperson Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith told The Washington Times on Tuesday that it is “not just bringing police and community members together, it’s empowering those community members to take back control of their neighborhoods.”

“Law abiding citizens, especially in poor urban areas, have lost their voices to the small but loud ‘anti-police’ minority; they can no longer sit back and say ‘someone needs to do something,’” Ms. Brantner Smith said in an email Tuesday. “American law enforcement officers want to protect our communities, but we can’t do it without the cooperation and participation of the people we are trying to serve.”

The retired sergeant, who has previously hosted NNO events, said they are “a perfect way to initiate a return to ‘broken windows policing,’ addressing small crime issues so that the big issues never have a chance to settle in.”

Tuesday’s event falls on the two-year anniversary of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 dead. 

As of July 28, the total number of mass shootings nationwide this year is nearly 20% higher (393) than the same time last year (329), according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Last month, the Justice Department deployed gun trafficking “strike forces” to five major cities including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the District.

“Leveraging existing resources, the regional strike forces will better ensure sustained and focused coordination across jurisdictions and help stem the supply of illegally trafficked firearms from source cities, through other communities, and into five key market regions,” the department said in a press release.

The strike forces are part of President Biden’s Violent Crime Reduction Initiative announced in May in response to an increase in violent crime, particularly shootings and homicides.

Homicides were up in at least 38 large cities in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time in 2020, according to a report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

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