National Night Out celebrations to begin Tuesday

By Kayley Ryan

Fort Worth is expecting several thousand residents to participate in at least 190 block parties hosted by neighborhoods and crime prevention organizations on Tuesday evening, according to police.
National Night Out (NNO) 2016 is expected to have the greatest turnout in celebration of community-police partnerships since it began in 1984, according to police.
NNO is a police-community partnership event that takes place in all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world, according to the NNO website.
FWPD crime prevention specialist Kala Sloan said NNO purposes to heighten awareness of crime prevention, generate support for local law enforcement and anti-crime efforts and strengthen neighborhood spirit.
She said Fort Worth police and almost every aspect of city government will attend the block parties organized by homeowner associations, neighborhood associations, Citizens on Patrol and crime watch groups.
Mayor Betsy Price and several city council members will not be able to attend the NNO events on Tuesday because they will be attending a Texas Municipal League conference in Austin, Sloan said.
Block parties may range from simple neighborhood gatherings to elaborate carnival-like celebrations featuring music, food, dancing and of course, visits from the police department.
Sloan said two years ago, an entire neighborhood showed up to watch a parade of neighbors’ cars decorated with posters and ribbons.
“They went all through the streets of the neighborhood,” Sloan said. “The entire neighborhood would turn out, on the corners and lining the streets, you know, to cheer and wave them on.”

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    West Division Neighborhood Police Officer Matt McClellen, who has served with FWPD for 24 years, said NNO plays an important role in improving relationships between community and police in the growing national effort toward community policing.
    “I try to meet everyone I can within my neighborhood, especially if they have offenses,” McClellen said. “We want to be transparent and for people to feel comfortable with us.”
    That transparency and service mindset is crucial in light of police-involved shootings across the nation, such as the recent shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Sloan said Fort Worth police officers protect the community and uphold the law to the best of their ability.
    “I think every person, every man, every woman, who puts on that Fort Worth uniform, feels a strength and a solidarity with each other,” Sloan said. “They are truly brothers and sisters in blue.”
    According to its website, NNO began in 1984 with funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice.
    In 2015, NNO involved 30 million people in 16,000 communities, according to police.