Each summer, communities around the country spend time outside getting to know each other as part of the National Night Out crime-fighting initiative.
One of the longest such events in Harford County has been the National Night Out in Bel Air's Colonial Acres neighborhood, held every August in the low-key community park off East Ring Factory Road.
Debbie Adolph started the event eight or nine years ago and said it draws anywhere from 30 to 80 people in a given year.
Tuesday night's event started out on the slow side, with just a handful of people spreading out picnic blankets or talking with Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company firefighters who were handing out helmets and toys for children.
"Neighbors are supposed to let the criminals know that we're watching," Adolph said while grilling hot dogs in the park. "I came up with the bright idea to have a cookout."
"My husband thinks its really funny because by having a cookout we're all out at the park and they could be out burglarizing our houses," she noted with a laugh.
"In the type of neighborhood like this, many people are working," Adolph explained. "You can see 10 houses that no cars are in the driveway at all during the day, so it's really important that we're watching out for each other."
"It really does make sense," she added about National Night Out.
Adolph said it also makes it easier for people to go to their neighbors with a problem or if they see something suspicious if they have already met them.
Rhonda Little said she has spent her 44 years in Colonia Acres and still enjoys the chance to spend time outside on an August evening.
"I've lived in Colonial Acres my whole life and I lived on the same street I grew up on, just in a different house," she said.
National Night Out "is nice, it's a sense of community and it's a way to get to know new people who have moved into the neighborhood," she said.
Besides the Bel Air fire equipment, the event included an ice-cream truck and some other food sales.
Several people brought children, including Ray and Lara Gerry, who had 3-month-old Harper. They came with their longtime friends Steve and Ashley Ruth. All are newcomers to Colonial Acres and said they were curious about meeting neighbors.
Matt Casey, another visitor who had been coming for several years, said National Night Out made sense even for low-crime neighborhoods like Colonial Acres.
He said perhaps events like this help keep crime away to begin with.
"It's kind of fun and [we come] just for a sense of community," he said.
Casey was there with his wife Tara and their children, Devin, 5, and Derek, 3.
"You get to meet your neighbors," he added.