For the 36th year, the first Tuesday in August is being marked as National Night Out, an event during which communities throughout the United States host activities that bring neighbors and police together to foster improved relations. Several Western New York municipalities including the City of Buffalo will play host to activities Tuesday evening.
Among those expressing support for National Night Out in advance of this year's events is Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, who announced Monday he will appear at local events to join block clubs, community organizations, religious institutions and other hosts to send a message to would-be criminals: they will not win.
"These community groups are saying that we are coming out. We are walking our streets. We are going to be outside in our neighborhood, and we are not going to let the individuals who choose to solve their differences through violence, through guns, we're not going to let them dictate how we live our life," Flynn said.
In Buffalo, more than 150 block clubs and community organizations will hold gatherings citywide.
"We have this great opportunity once a year to celebrate block clubs and the community efficacy of everyone here coming together on one special night," said Oswaldo Mestre, the City of Buffalo's Director of Citizen Services, during a recent National Night Out preview held outside City Hall.
Mayor Byron Brown announced at that time officials will distribute child identification kits, bike helmets, junior police badges and National Night Out coloring books. He also spoke of the Buffalo Police Department's efforts throughout the year to improve relations with the public.
"We have really ramped up our community policing efforts in the City of Buffalo," Brown said. "One of the initiatives that we have is the Buffalo Police Department Neighborhood Engagement Team that has embedded itself in neighborhoods all across the city, really building on the community-police relationship."
He also spoke of the recent introduction of a new Crisis Intervention Unit and the police department's recent acquisition of accreditation by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Accreditation Council. The latter move, which was required by the city's own charter, is seen by city officials as a demonstration of the department's sincere effort to hold itself to statewide standards and raise its accountability.
Numerous other local communities have National Night Out plans. They include a gathering at Willow Ridge Elementary School and a bike parade beginning at 6 p.m. at the Ellicott Creek Volunteer Fire Company in the Town of Amherst, the Village of Albion, the City of Batavia, Town of Cheektowaga, City of Dunkirk, Town of Evans, Town of Grand Island, City of Lackawanna, North Tonawanda and Town of Tonawanda.