Local law enforcement plans for National Night Out events Oct. 2

by Josie Fox herald@mediactr.com

Rusk and Jacksonville police departments are getting ready to paint their towns blue and are inviting community members to get in on the action.

Both departments are seeking sponsors and donations for their annual National Night Out (NNO) events. Both events will be held the first Tuesday in October.

“The best way to build a safer community is to know your neighbors and your surroundings,” former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said in a statement published by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), founders of the NNO event. “National Night Out triumphs over a culture that isolates us from each other and allows us to rediscover our own communities.”

According to the National Association of Town Watch’s website, natw.org, NNO is “an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make all neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.”

This year marks the 35th anniversary of National Night Out. NATW’s founder and executive director Matt Peskin introduced the program in 1984, which stemmed from volunteer work he’d done seven years prior with the Lower Marion Police Department in Philadelphia, Penn.

“National Association of Town Watch was founded only a few years later to provide community watch groups the necessary resources and assets to stay informed, interested, involved, and motivated within the community,” NATW’s website explains. “Neighbors and local law enforcement across the nation supported the association as it steadily grew for the next three years. However, Peskin knew something more was needed.”

The first ever NNO event saw 2.5 million citizens in 400 communities across 23 states participate – now an estimated 38 million residents in more than 16,000 communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide observed National Night Out.

The Rusk Police Department held its very first NNO event in 2017 and won the NATW’s Rookie of the Year award.

“Last year’s event was very successful,” Rusk Police Association President and RPD Sgt. Nathan Acker said. “And of course, we’re hoping to be able to build on that and make this year’s National Night Out even better.”

Rusk’s NNO second annual event will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 on the downtown square in Rusk. Festivities will include a cook-out, live entertainment, bounce houses, dunking booth, information booths, face-painting and more.

“Vehicles and equipment from the Rusk Fire Department, DPS, the Sheriff’s Office, the game wardens, EMS will be set up for view and we’re working with Air One to have a helicopter there, too. Everyone’s welcome to come out and enjoy a burger, get to know our officers and meet their neighbors.”

Sponsors already signed up for Rusk’s NNO event include Whataburger-Rusk, Citizen’s 1st Bank-Rusk, Brookshire Brothers, Jeannie Swink, Harry’s Building Material, Texas National Bank-Rusk, First United Methodist Church-Rusk, the Rusk Police Association, JP Auto and Austin Bank-Rusk. Acker said all donations will go to the local National Night Out event, and any excess collected this year will roll over to fund next year’s event.

“We can’t do our jobs without our community’s support,” Acker said. “We want to do everything we can to build positive relationships will all our community members and keep those relationships strong – that helps us solve crimes, protect our residents and generally do a better job for all the residents of Rusk.”

Lat year, the Jacksonville Police Department ranked 18th of the 31 best events held in cities with populations of 5,000 to 15,000 across the state.

Jacksonville’s NNO events will be from 5:30-9 p.m., at the Sweet Union Baptist Church, 302 N. Main St., Jacksonville; and from 6-9p.m. at Father’s Love ministry, 402 S. Bolton St., Jacksonville.

Featured attractions at Jacksonville’s NNO events include cook-outs, a petting zoo, bounce houses, a basketball skills challenge and more.

Sponsors of Jacksonville’s NNO include Boogie Butt Productions, Sweet Union Baptist Church-Jacksonville, Whataburger-Jacksonville, Super Gallo grocery store, the Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy, Austin Bank-Jacksonville and Father’s Love.