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Citizens Send Warnings To Criminals: The Night Is Ours

August 13, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Residents rallied in cities across the country to send word to criminals that the streets really belong to the people and not to them.

In New York, more than 300 people packed into Morningside Park in Upper Manhattan to hear Mayor Edward I. Koch and Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward pledge more help against crime.

Other National Night Out rallies against crime took place in such cities as Boston and Davenport, Iowa and organizers said about 17 million Americans turned on their porch lights or rallied for the event.

More than 4,700 communities in 49 states participated in Tuesday night’s neighborhood watch, compared to 2,100 communities last year, said Matt Peskin of Wynnewood, Pa., the event’s founder. The sole state not taking part was Alaska, with its long summer days, he said.

″I’m asking you not to give up hope. We’ve been talking about this problem for 30 years,″ Koch told the New York crowd.

Tell the police where the criminals are, he implored: ″We’re going to come back day after day and make the arrests.″

Koch also asked those gathered to ask President Reagan to wage a war on drugs coming into the country as if the nation were being invaded.

″If every one of you sends a letter to the president and says in your own words, ’Mr. President, you have to protect this country. Mr. President, you are the commander in chief,‴ it might have an effect, Koch said.

In Boston, police escorted about 100 citizens down some of the city’s toughest streets for National Night Out.

Citizen members of crime watch groups throughout Boston turned on porch lights, sat on front steps and talked to neighbors, as a ″crime prevention caravan″, consisting mainly of the Neighborhood Justice Network and Crime Watch groups, drove by.

In Iowa, Davenport was speckled with front porch lights and residents stayed on the lookout.

″We’re all watching out for each other,″ said Ember Madsen, who sat outside along with her husband, two children, a dog and several other neighbors in Davenport.

″This tells those people who commit crimes that these areas with their porch lights on have people in them who are watching out for each other and are watching for criminals,″ said Janet Dew, spokeswoman for Quad-Cities Night Out.

Dozens of New Jersey communities took part in the event, but one organizer, Lona Wiggins, said she had to recruit children to take part when she had difficulty encouraging enough adults to help fight crime.

The symbolic project took place between 8 and 9 p.m. in thousands of towns across the country and was coordinated by the National Association of Town Watch and local police departments.

Organizers said the event was designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit, overcome the fear of crime ″after dark,″ and let criminals know the neighbors are watching.

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