National Night Out is one time Towson residents won't be cringing when they hear the wail of fire engines and police cruisers.
Instead, they are invited to sit back and wave to the motorcade of county vehicles including those from Towson Precinct 6 Police Community Relations Council and those from Towson Area Citizens on Patrol as they wend their way through 24 local neighborhoods, on Tuesday, Aug. 6, starting at 6 p.m.
The message that National Night Out is sending — which the volunteers hope will be heard loud and clear above the din of the Providence Volunteer fire truck and Baltimore County police cars — is "Crime is not welcome in Towson."
Residents are asked to show support by turning porch and outdoor lights on, walking neighborhood streets or by honking or waving as the procession goes by.
National Night Out, which now is staged in 10,000 communities nationwide, began in 1984 to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie, and to make criminals aware that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Locally, TACOP partners with Baltimore County Police to stage National Night Out on the first Tuesday of August. The volunteers and local elected representatives will gather for their annual photograph where the motorcade begins in the parking lot above Michaels arts and crafts store in Towson Place shopping center off Putty Hill Avenue.
"The idea behind [it] is to drive home the point that folks are out there patrolling," said Mike Calwell, president of TACOP. "It's not just the police who are working to keep the neighborhoods safe."
The patrollers are "crucial to law enforcement," Towson Precinct commander Capt. Richard Howard said "Police can't be all place at all times."
This year, as TACOP did last year, members will be bringing nonperishable food items to be donated to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches. With support provided by 48 local churches, ACTC provides emergency assistance to poor and needy families regardless of creed or religion.
The food is needed and appreciated, said ACTC Executive Director Cathy Burgess. "Because it's summer and people are thinking about other things, donations are down," she said. "But the demand we need to meet is up as families try to meet their expenses."
The motorcade event is exciting to participants, as police officers speed ahead to stop traffic so the COP volunteers can pass, said longtime TACOP official Janice Arcieri.
In some neighborhoods people wait at the curb at applaud the procession. But more often than not, the initial reaction of onlookers is, "What's going on?" said Pat France, TACOP vice president.
Knollwood-Donnybrook resident Dave Riddle, who patrols with his wife, Susan, and sometimes their 12-year-old black Labrador retriever, Lilly, said his neighborhood patrols are usually "fairly peaceful."
"The National Night Out motorcade is always fun. You get to meet with other COP families and get to see other neighborhoods," Riddle said.
Unfortunately, Lilly, who is an authorized COP patroller and has the official photo ID to prove it, gets left at home on National Night Out.
"It would be too much excitement for her," Riddle said.
TACOP includes active units serving as extra eyes and ears for the police in Aigburth Manor, Aigburth Vale Mansion, Anneslie, Campus Hills, Donnybrook Apartments, East Towson, Fellowship Forest, Glendale/Glenmont, Greenbrier, Hillendale Improvement Association, Idlewylde, Loch Hill, Loch Raven Village, Knettishall, Knollwood/Donnybrook, Loch Raven Heights, Olde Hillendale, Ridgely Manor, Ridgeleigh Community, Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, Southland Hills, Towson Manor Village, Yorkleigh and Wiltondale.
TACOP volunteers are always needed. For information about TACOP, call Mike Calwell, 443-829-5276, or Pat France, 410-828-5564.