In the science of the very small, there is a curious notion that watching a subatomic particle affects that subatomic particle. It's a bit more complicated than that, but the idea is a mind-bender for the majority of us non-physicists.
There's a similar corollary in business management that concludes paying attention to a problem will help the situation. Human nature makes this one easier to understand. If everyone knows something is a problem and people at the next level up are paying attention, certain errant behaviors are likely to be self-corrected.
Such is the case with National Night Out. It's a safe bet that the locations where National Night Out was being observed with picnic dinners and police displays were more safe than usual on the evening of Aug. 6. Moreover, in places where the observances were less high profile, safety was probably up a few notches as well.
On that front, National Night Out is a fairly successful event.
Unfortunately, one safe summer night does not a successful anti-crime program make.
This, of course, is the idea behind anti-crime observances like National Night Out and Take Back the Night, though that idea sometimes gets lost in the carnival-like atmosphere that sometimes evolves.
There is nothing wrong, by the way, with the carnival-like feel of, for example, the Abingdon National Night Out event. The easy atmosphere gives police and the people they're hired to protect a low-stress opportunity to interact.
On a more practical level, when criminal activity is at a minimum and police on the beat have the chance to interact with the neighborhoods they patrol, every night should end up serving as a miniature version of National Night Out.
Certainly, criminal elements across Harford County – and the country, for that matter – will be unaffected by such things. The reality, however, is there are good people in just about every neighborhood, no matter how bad the neighborhood. While these folks sometimes have personal ties or blood relations to the bad actors, they also don't want to live in a dangerous neighborhood any more than anyone else.
It's incumbent on police to be available to interact with the communities they're assigned to protect. Similarly, it's incumbent on the good people of every community to reach out to law enforcement officers when there's no crime and no emergency.
No neighborhood can expect to be crime-free without some measure of police presence, just as no amount of police presence will keep a neighborhood crime-free without the people who live there doing their part by helping keep police abreast of what's going on.
National Night Out may be over, but there's no reason for the idea behind it to be ignored on the other 364 nights.