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Night Out focuses on crime prevention
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Members of the Pinellas Park Fire Department demonstrate rescue tactics at a previous National Night Out event.
PINELLAS PARK – Residents are invited to learn more about crime prevention and to meet local law enforcement agencies at the Pinellas Park Police Department’s annual National Night Out event Tuesday, Aug. 5, 5 to 8 p.m., in the Target parking lot at The Shoppes at Park Place, 7150 U.S. 19 N.

This national effort to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness comes through a partnership with Target stores across the country, said Pinellas Park police officer James Gatti, who organizes the Pinellas Park event.

Attendees will get to meet and learn about not only the different divisions of the PPPD, but also the Pinellas Park Fire Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies. Each agency will hand out information and give demonstrations of various police tactics.

It’s also a great opportunity for residents to meet members of various neighborhood crime watches and to learn how to start their own, Gatti said. Currently, Pinellas Park has at least 10 such groups, he said, with about six of them in the Community Redevelopment Area.

When Gatti took over the event three years ago, he also changed the scope a bit.

“I really wanted to focus on bringing the community together,” he said.

So he approached the other stores located in The Shoppes at Park Place about participating.

Many of them will set up tables at the event and offer special deals.

Also, free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served. And police will be giving away a limited number of backpacks filled with school supplies.

“It’s a true community festival,” he said. “It’s really about bringing everybody together.”

The nonprofit organization National Association of Town Watch first organized National Night Out, dubbed “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” in 1984 to help neighborhoods throughout the United States fight back against crime. Nearly 2.5 million Americans participated in the first event across 400 communities in 23 states. Today the annual event involves over 37.8 million people in 16,124 communities not only in all 50 states, but also in U.S. Territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie,” said Matt Peskin, NATW’s executive director. “While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round. The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”

National Night Out events are organized by the Largo and Clearwater police departments on NNO’s alternative date, the first Tuesday in October, at Target stores in those cities.
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