How well do you know your neighbors?
Your answer to that question is one indicator of the level of crime prevention, safety and unity in your neighborhood. According to law enforcement experts and the National Association of Town Watch a correlation can be made between the crime rates in neighborhoods or communities and how well people in those areas know each other, communicate with each other and interact with one another.
On August 3 Fort Dodge residents will have the chance to come together to help make our city safer and friendlier. The Fifth Annual National Night Out activities begin at 6:00 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m. at Corpus Christi, 408 N. 8th St. in Fort Dodge.
Manning the sheriff's table, from left, are Sheriff Brian Mickelson, Luke Fleener and Tony Walter.
The "block party" has a variety of fun activities for people of all ages. Participants will have the chance to learn about and form a Neighborhood Watch program; meet local police officers and fire fighters; increase public safety awareness; enjoy free food, music and games; and win prizes in the raffle.
"The goal is to create safer, stronger neighborhoods and community," said Jamie Anderson, president of Webster County's Cultural Diversity Team. Anderson works in the human resources office for the city of Fort Dodge.
"It's a great way to create or improve neighborhood unity while fostering tolerance," Jarrod Feld added. Feld is in Fort Dodge working to coordinate efforts between the Iowa Human & Civil Rights VISTA Project, the Fort Dodge Human Rights Commission and the Webster County Cultural Diversity Team.
Children (who must be accompanied by an adult) receive a passport card when they arrive at National Night Out festivities. As they visit booths, watch demonstrations and play gamesall the while learning about safety issuesthey fill up their passport. When full, kids and their adult chaperones sign the card and turn them in for an entry into the night's raffle.
Some of the items which will be given away include bicycles, weather radios, first aid kits and a host of smaller prizes.
"We want everyone to know that everything is free," Anderson said. Thanks to national sponsor, Target, and a host of local sponsors, making it a free, public event puts everyone who attends on equal ground. "National Night Out is for people of all ages, from every neighborhood," said Feld.
Kids will have the chance to get in a real fire truck, meet police officers, watch the county drug dogs in action, meet search and rescue animals, interact with clowns, get their face painted and play a variety of games in addition to free food, color sheets and stickers.
For the adults, National Night Out provides a variety of safety information. Packets on how to start a Neighborhood Watch are available along with suggestions and resources for getting a group started in your area. "All that's needed is one person willing to take the lead," Feld said. There are currently four active neighborhood watch groups in Fort Dodge. Information on speakers who are willing to meet with groups in local neighborhoods will also be available.
National Night Out started in 1984 with 400 towns across the nation. This year there are over 15,000 neighborhoods and communities participating in the annual event.
Locally, organizers for National Night Out have partnered with Upper Des Moines Opportunity's "Back to School Bash" which will be distributing backpacks with school supplies at the event on August 3. This year UDMO has need for 800-plus supply-filled backpacks. (Drop boxes to donate school supplies are located in a variety of Fort Dodge stores. The cost to sponsor a child is $17.)
Anderson and Feld said that the first year, before they partnered with UDMO, there were around 250 participants in the local National Night Out. The past few years have seen that number double. "This year, because of the needs we're hearing about for the Back to School Bash, we expect to have a lot more than 500."
The Webster County Cultural Diversity Team is the main coordinator for National Night Out. The team began informally in 1996 and was organized into a non-profit corporation in 2010. Diversity groups originally formed in reaction to hate crimes throughout the country. Today the focus is more proactive, working towards prevention and unity through education and tolerance. The Webster County Cultural Diversity Team is open to anyone. They meet on the third Thursday of the month at 11:45 a.m. at the Fort Dodge Public Library.
If you have any questions about National Night Out or setting up a Neighborhood Watch call (515) 576-2201 to reach either Jamie Anderson or Jarrod Felt. More information is also available on-line at www.natw.org.