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National Night Out: Make Criminals Scatter Like Cockroaches

August 4, 1992

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Criminals are like cockroaches, or so goes the theory behind tonight’s National Night Out.

″When you put the lights on, they scatter,″ said Matt Peskin, organizer of the ninth annual event.

People across the country have been asked to fight crime where they live by turning on their porch lights and spending the evening outside. Community groups and police departments plan block parties, parades and flashlight walks.

The event is organized by the National Association of Town Watch, based in suburban Wynnewood. Peskin, the organization’s director, said he expects 25 million people in 8,400 communities to take part in the National Night Out.

In New Orleans, a Mardi Gras-style parade was held Sunday for National Night Out. Police pulled a coffin containing the ″remains″ of crime. In Minneapolis, nearly 700 block parties were planned for today, Peskin said.

United Streets of Hollywood, made up of 32 neighborhood watch groups, expects 300 people for its program tonight: a lecture from a police captain and a minister, followed by a walk through streets plagued by drugs and gangs.

The riots in Los Angeles have increased interest in neighborhood watch groups, said Robert Burton of the North Hollywood Sentinels.

George Lewis of the Nehemiah Homeowners’ Association in New York City’s Brooklyn, said the 1,050-member group encourages residents to keep their lights on all night, every night.

″It’s getting good,″ he said. ″As you drive around the neighborhood, some blocks are more successful than others, but there are some blocks that have almost every light on.″

Peskin said it costs $36 a year to keep two 60-watt bulbs burning from dusk to dawn. He is convinced a well-lighted neighborhood is a safe neighborhood.

″Criminals, particularly drug dealers, tend to take their business elsewhere,″ he said.

To generate interest in National Night Out, Sgt. Douglas Arp of Vicksburg, Miss., has spent the past week living on a billboard that advertises the event.

The police offricer said he tells passers-by that they can deter crime by getting to know their neighbors.

″Neighbors are not going to look out after you if they don’t know you,″ he said.

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