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National Night Out promotes safe, healthy neighborhoods

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A young visitor during National Night Out gets a closeup look at a police cruiser.

A young visitor during National Night Out gets a closeup look at a police cruiser.

Prescription drug take-back, games and children’s activities

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams wants to send a message to criminals: Neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. This year marks the fifth anniversary of a citywide National Night Out event to coincide with the national public safety event.

This free event on Monday, Aug. 2, is a collaboration between Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Springfield-Greene County Park Board and the City of Springfield and will bring together law enforcement, as well as agencies and organizations that promote health and safety.

This event doesn’t replace the annual neighborhood-based events, billed as Neighborhood Night Out. Dates for these events vary by neighborhood. Individual homeowner associations are encouraged to hold their own events following National Night Out to allow residents to get to know their neighbors.

National Night Out celebrates the culmination of crime prevention activity in all Springfield neighborhoods: people working together in associations and other groups to prevent and address crime and other neighborhood problems. It also promotes healthy neighborhoods and encourages people to get out and get to know one another.

“It is an occasion to celebrate past successes, discuss current challenges or issues, and re-dedicate collaborative efforts with neighbors, police, businesses and others to improve the quality of life in our city,” says Williams.

Last year’s National Night Out campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from over 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

The Springfield Police Department uses a variety of crime prevention and community engagement strategies to increase ways that citizens can protect themselves and their property.

Community Policing is a collaborative effort between the police department and the community they serve that identifies problems of crime and disorder, and involves all elements of the community, in the search for solutions to these problems. It is founded on close, mutually beneficial ties between police and community members.

Police Area Representative (PAR) Officers use problem-oriented policing to produce long-term solutions to the problems of crime or decay in communities. Police, residents, and other agencies or organizations work together to identify and find the causes for neighborhood crime problems, then develop responses to those problems. In most cases, the responses developed through problem-oriented policing are joint police-community actions, which also involve participation by a variety of other departments within the City of Springfield. By doing this, the PAR Officers are able to resolve long-standing neighborhood issues, thereby avoiding an escalation of those specific incidents. Citizens can locate their PAR Officers at the City’s website.

Neighborhood Watch is a voluntary program organized by concerned citizens to reduce crime in their communities. Working with local law enforcement agencies, citizens can learn when and how to report suspicious activities, assist in property identification, conduct home security surveys, and implement home security measures and precautions. SPD also recently launched programs built with similar goals called Apartment Watch and Business Watch.

Crime Prevention Officers coordinate and help organize Neighborhood Watch, Business Watch and Apartment Watch groups and perform commercial and residential security surveys using established Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.

Crime Prevention Officers can also present programs on varied topics including robbery prevention, drugs, residential security, commercial vandalisms and burglaries and personal safety. Crime prevention tips are also available on the SPD website, and the Crime Prevention Officers can be contacted at 417-874-2113.

Community Partnership of the Ozarks (CPO) is a nonprofit agency that aims to facilitate and promote the building of resilient children, healthy families and strong neighborhoods and communities through collaboration, programming and resource development. CPO has a variety of programs aimed at helping neighbors.

The Springfield-Greene County Park Board works closely with Springfield neighborhood associations, the CPO and other partners to support events and kids activities in neighborhood parks.

The City of Springfield Neighborhoods and Planning Office also provides services and support to sustain and revitalize Springfield neighborhoods. The department recently launched Great Neighborhoods, an initiative to improve quality of life and recognize neighbors who are making a difference.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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