National Night Out: An evening for neighbors

Town Watch mem­bers and their neigh­bors will see a very dif­fer­ent Na­tion­al Night Out next week when thou­sands of Phil­adelphia res­id­ents gath­er at loc­a­tions throughout the city to demon­strate their sup­port for law and or­der.

For the first time ever, the city­wide NNO kick­off rally will be held in the North­east thanks to new spon­sor­ship from Tar­get, which will host the block party-style event on Monday, Aug. 6, at Bustleton and Bleigh av­en­ues in Rhawn­hurst.

Mean­while, for the first time in more than a dec­ade, the North­east’s largest an­nu­al NNO cel­eb­ra­tion, the one al­ways held at Fox Chase Ele­ment­ary School, will not take place. Neigh­bor­hood Town Watch lead­ers have ad­vised folks to go to the Tar­get event in­stead.

And fi­nally, for the first time in sev­er­al years, NNO activ­it­ies will not be held at any of the three po­lice sta­tions in the North­east. Rather, everything will hap­pen in more-pub­lic ven­ues, in­clud­ing re­cre­ation cen­ters and shop­ping plaza park­ing lots. Neigh­bor­hood-spe­cif­ic events are sched­uled for Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, Aug. 7 and 8.

“This is sup­posed to be a com­munity event. It’s about neigh­bors look­ing out for neigh­bors,” ex­plained Capt. Len Ditch­kof­sky, com­mand­er of the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict. “It’s about get­ting to know each oth­er and talk­ing about prob­lems in the neigh­bor­hood.”

People do that all over the United States and bey­ond.

The Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Town Watch cre­ated NNO 29 years ago to height­en crime- and drug-pre­ven­tion aware­ness, gen­er­ate sup­port for loc­al anti-crime pro­grams, strengthen neigh­bor­hood spir­it and po­lice-com­munity part­ner­ships, and to “send a mes­sage to crim­in­als let­ting them know that neigh­bor­hoods are or­gan­ized and fight­ing back.”

In 2011, more than 37 mil­lion people in 50 states, U.S. ter­rit­or­ies, Ca­na­dian cit­ies and mil­it­ary bases world­wide par­ti­cip­ated in NNO activ­it­ies, ac­cord­ing to the na­tion­al or­gan­izer.

Many com­munit­ies have elab­or­ate pub­lic gath­er­ings with vendors, po­lice and fire de­part­ment demon­stra­tions, en­ter­tain­ment and celebrity ap­pear­ances. Oth­er com­munit­ies choose to do it dif­fer­ently, where res­id­ents turn on their porch lamps, go out­side and gath­er in small groups to show solid­ar­ity against crime.

Phil­adelphia tends to do things more elab­or­ately.

Three days of activ­ity will kick off with the Tar­get rally, as well as a sim­il­ar rally in Fairhill Square Park at Fourth Street and Le­high Av­en­ue. They will start at 6 p.m.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter or his deputy, as well as top po­lice de­part­ment com­mand­ers are ex­pec­ted to at­tend both events. Se­lec­ted Town Watch vo­lun­teers will re­ceive awards for their ser­vice.

“It was al­ways in South Phil­adelphia for a long time at Wal-Mart,” said An­thony Murphy, dir­ect­or of Town Watch In­teg­rated Ser­vices, the city-sponsored agency that cer­ti­fies neigh­bor­hood Town Watch groups.

“The Town Watch groups in the North­east al­ways sup­por­ted the kick­off in South Phil­adelphia. And Phil­adelphia is a city of neigh­bor­hoods. So this is the next neigh­bor­hood [where] we’re bring­ing it.”

Tar­get has been a long­time spon­sor of NNO in in­di­vidu­al neigh­bor­hoods. But it has be­come a city­wide spon­sor for the first time, Murphy said.

Fox Chase Town Watch lead­ers de­cided to dis­con­tin­ue their an­nu­al gath­er­ing, know­ing that the Tar­get event would of­fer North­east res­id­ents a com­par­able al­tern­at­ive. Steve Phil­lips, pres­id­ent of the group, told mem­bers on Ju­ly 11 that the com­bin­a­tion of in­creas­ing costs and de­clin­ing vo­lun­teer sup­port made re­new­ing the event dif­fi­cult.

“We’ve been look­ing for a primary spon­sor for years,” Phil­lips said.

The smal­ler, more loc­al­ized activ­it­ies will be­gin at 11 a.m. on Aug. 7 when the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil will host a pic­nic for chil­dren at the Lack­man Play­ground, 1101 Bart­lett St.

That even­ing, the Castor Gar­dens Town Watch will wel­come the pub­lic to a pic­nic at Woo­drow Wilson Middle School, at Cottman and Lor­etto av­en­ues, from 6 to 9 p.m. Vis­it­ors can meet their neigh­bors, get a bite to eat and learn valu­able in­form­a­tion about Town Watch and pub­lic safety.

At the same time, Pennypack Woods Homeown­ers As­so­ci­ation will con­duct a neigh­bor­hood walk and Town Watch re­cruit­ment drive start­ing at 6 p.m.

Also at 6 p.m. on Aug. 7, the Park­wood Town Watch will team with the Mill­brook/Chalf­ont Town Watch for a re­cruit­ment drive and expo at the Knights Shop­ping Cen­ter, Knights and Wood­haven roads.

Loc­al busi­nesses, or­gan­iz­a­tions and elec­ted of­fi­cials will set up booths to share gifts and in­form­a­tion. The shop­ping cen­ter’s own­er, Marx Re­alty & Im­prove­ment Co., is the primary spon­sor.

Later that even­ing, the May­fair Town Watch will hold a “flash­light march” on Frank­ford Av­en­ue start­ing at 7:30 p.m. Par­ti­cipants will gath­er at Cottman and Frank­ford av­en­ues, where vendors will dis­trib­ute free wa­ter ice, bal­loons and glow sticks for chil­dren. Par­ti­cipants should bring their own flash­lights.

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or

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