National Night Out 2010 set for tonight in Columbus

Don’t be worried if the wailing of sirens and the bubble gum lights of police cars come down your street tonight.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Today is National Night Out — a nationwide event that brings law enforcement, civic groups, neighborhood organizations and just regular people together. All across America, people will gather during the evening, hold cookouts and barbecues and wait for convoys of police, firefighters and others to arrive.

“National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness in the neighborhood,” said Crime Prevention Officer Randy Brown. “The motto is ‘Give neighborhood crime and drugs a going away party.’”

Six convoys will leave the Columbus Civic Center at 6 p.m. today, each visiting several neighborhood gatherings. Brown had 12 neighborhoods participate when Columbus had its first National Night Out in 2000. Last year, there were 28 neighborhoods and 200 law enforcement vehicles involved.

The annual event gets people face-to-face with law enforcement. It’s also a good way to revitalize Neighborhood Watch programs, Brown said.

Neighborhood Watch, a program featuring signs throughout a community and residential meetings, tend to fall apart between three to five years after their creation. National Night Out gets people back together, Brown said.

“In just a good, old-fashioned cookout,” Brown said.

While visiting the different gatherings, law enforcement will talk to people about what can be done to make Columbus safer, he said.

Ultimately, the purpose of the event is to get support and participation in anti-crime programs, strengthen relationships between the community and law enforcement and let criminals know people are fighting back.

The event is expected to end around 8:30 p.m.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer