ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Every year, on the first Tuesday of August, you’ll find people leaving their homes to spend some time with their neighbors and local police officers.
It’s called National Night Out, and this year we’re seeing an even more supportive tone because of last week’s tragic events.
Last Wednesday, Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick was fatally shot in West St. Paul. The man eventually charged in his killing was only caught after a firefight with police just north of the Capitol building.
Since National Night Out started in 1984, Minnesota has been a leader in the number of parties held.
Last year, Minneapolis tied with San Antonio, Texas, for having the most parties in the nation.
St. Paul and several other Minnesota cities have also topped the list when compared to cities of their size.
The goal of National Night Out is to encourage neighbors to look out for one another and call the police if they see anything suspicious.
In St. Paul on Tuesday, people were taking an extra step to show their appreciation for law enforcement officers.
At the corner of Dale and Maryland Avenue, an apartment complex was lined with dozens of blue balloons. It’s partly about decoration, but mostly about showing St. Paul police some love.
“It’s been such a horrible week for the St. Paul police, just horrible,” said apartment manager Mary O’Hara Anderson.
Over on Selby Avenue, the mascot outside Pizza Luce was sporting blue balloons, too. And when you stepped inside, blue balloons were attached to each booth.
“I don’t think people think about or realize that every time a police officer leaves his home they are facing unknown dangers and risks,” said Margaret Jones, who lives in the Lexington-Hamline neighborhood.
Pam McCreary, a crime prevention coordinator with St. Paul police, says neighbors are often the first ones to detect a crime about to occur.
“It’s neighbors who see something strange happening…people going on to a porch or removing a screen off a window, and they say, ‘That’s not right’ and call 911,” McCreary said.
More people have created email lists of neighbors and Facebook pages that share news about safety and crime alerts.
“That’s a really good way to share information and ask questions,” said Ted Blank who lives in St. Paul’s Como neighborhood. “It’s amazing when someone puts something out there, that there are those who have a common experience or can answer a question.”
The start times of National Night Out events vary, some start in the morning and others don’t get going until 6 p.m.
Police say communities that are more engaged have reduced crime rates.
Many city websites put together lists of registered events.