National Night Out, an annual event that promotes police and community relations, returns Tuesday.
Held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out started in 1984 in 23 states and has expanded to 16,000 communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide, according to National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit that created the event and focuses on organized community crime prevention activities.
More than 50 community events will take place throughout Baltimore County, including eight in the police department's Wilkens precinct, which covers the southwest portion of the county.
Gatherings are taking place in Halethorpe, Lansdowne, Oella, Newburg Heights, Wynnwood, Violetville, Paradise and Catonsville.
For a complete schedule of National Night Out events in Baltimore County, click here.
Last year, the Violetville and St. Agnes Community Association hosted a National Night Out event for the first time as a way to build community rapport and build relations with county and Baltimore City police — the group has members in the county and the city. Its vice president, Natasza Bock-Singleton, said about 250 people took part in a walking tour of the community.
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This year's event is focused around Violetville Park, a city park just feet away from the county line. There will be activities where people can learn how to keep their homes and cars secure, activities for children, as well as an opioid overdose identification and prevention workshop, sponsored by the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition.
"I think it's something that can raise awareness of resources to keep neighborhood safe and make it safer," Bock-Singleton said. "Because it's annual, we can use it as a refresher, almost like a booster shot, for our safety and crime awareness programs, so they don't get stagnant."
The Medwick Garth Community Association, which has 147 homes in Catonsville and Baltimore City, is hosting a National Night Out event for the fourth time, said its vice president Mary Lynn Clark. Crime is on the mind of many of the group's members, she said. The group reformed in 2012, after it had lapsed over time, because of a series of car thefts, she said.
National Night Out serves as a way for neighbors to get to know each other and get advice from first responders, she said.
"Crime is something that everyone cares about and it really draws in all the members," she said. "It's a common interest of everyone."
The Lansdowne Improvement Association is holding activities for its second time this year. Last year's event, which included a barbecue, games and an appearance from the county fire department, had a turnout of about 50 children, said Ernie Bailey, the association's president.
"We got the word out and got a pretty good turnout," he said.