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Thousands Prepare for Anti-Crime Effort

August 12, 1985

Undated (AP) _ With porch lights as their symbol, a jazzy theme song and police support, neighborhood groups across the nation prepared for Tuesday’s National Night Out anti-crime effort, aiming to show muggers and thieves ″we’re mad and fighting back.″

Police officers were to be guests of honor at a block picnic in New Jersey and a balloon release was planned in Minnesota to mark the second year of the symbolic demonstration against crime.

Thousands from Oregon to New York state planned simply to spend a nighttime hour on their illuminated front porches.

″The whole idea is each neighbor knows that other neighbors care,″ said Sgt. Robert Lassahn of the police crime resistance unit in Baltimore, where 8,000 households were expected to participate.

In Detroit, Police Chief William L. Hart wrote 41 citizen radio patrol groups and 5,000 block clubs, asking members to join the sit-out as a ″show of solidarity against crime.″

″Night Out is a symbolic demonstration that will let criminals know that we’re mad and fighting back,″ said Matt Peskin of the National Association of Town Watch, based in Wynnewood, Pa., which organized the effort.

Peskin said last year 23 communities participated in the Night Out, and he expects that figure to more than triple Tuesday, involving residents of 45 states.

New York City will participate for the first time, with community groups holding flashlight parades and prayer vigils. Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward called on city residents to ″take back their community themselves.″

In Dover, Del., the Robbins Hose Fire Co. plans to blow a whistle when the Night Out vigil officially begins at 8 p.m. and when it ends an hour later, said Lt. Robert Bates.

A Minneapolis jazz singer wrote a Night Out song, to be sung at a park kickoff, with crime prevention speeches by the mayor and police officials.

″Some folks are going a few steps further and have block parties or progressive dessert walks from home to home or their own baloon release,″ organizers said in a release.

The activities will help ″raise the consciousness of what people can do to prevent crime,″ said Trenton, N.J., Patrolman Bill Lucas, adding that he hoped more crime watch groups would spring from the effort.

Patrol cars will visit participating groups in many areas, including Orange, N.J., where the aim will be ″to show that we’re all working together and to let them know that we care,″ Sgt. Don Wactor said.

A block association there is returning the compliment: inviting officers to a Night Out picnic.

Official participation of police and local governments has grown this year, officials indicated. Fliers announcing the Night Out program were sent to residents of Sandy, Ore., in their city water bills.

In Albany, N.Y., Police Chief John Dale said the program will be a reminder that average citizens are ″the eyes and ears of the Police Department.″

But that was not the only thinking behind Night Out.

″One of the major reasons that get an area involved is simply that neighbors want to get to know their neighbors,″ said Ardys Eserhut, who was helping coordinate the effort from a neighborhood center in Oklahoma City. The center receieved an anonymous donation of lightbulbs, which were passed out.

In a country where people often move many times in their lives, she said, ″It really promotes that old-fashioned sense of neighborhood we remember from our childhood.″

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