EDITORIAL: National Night Out shows we are stronger when we stand together

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

In the fight against crime, there are perhaps no greater assets than the eyes and ears of regular citizens.

And many locals served that function yet again during Tuesday's National Night Out activities. They congregated at dozens of sites — upwards of 30 in the city and about a dozen others within the county — to take a stand for safer neighborhoods. Those we count on daily for our protection — namely law enforcement officers and fire personnel — maintained a strong presence during the festivities.

NNO's official mission is to foster a community and police partnership to “heighten crime prevention awareness, generate support and participation in local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back.” The operative word in that statement is partnership, because neither police nor the public can do it alone.

NNO's most important function is creating connections — with people who live within our blocks, with emergency responders and with our local leaders and officials. It mobilizes all of the stakeholders toward the common goal of a peaceful community.

When we know each other, we come to care about each other, which leads to looking out for one another, which ultimately reduces crime. That proven domino effect is the premise on which National Night Out was founded.

That tradition is 31 years strong — and this year marks the 21st year that Sanford has joined the movement. The city's involvement is credited largely to the late City Councilman Walter McNeil — who was honored posthumously Tuesday with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. National Night Out is a standout accomplishment in McNeil's public service legacy, and at his namesake park, participants paid him tribute with a memorial service.

McNeil no doubt was gratified by seeing the support swell for this initiative year after year. He certainly would be pleased, too, to see that National Night Out is poised to continue long into the future.

Of course a single evening can't totally reverse the trend of violence and crime that has plagued Sanford and Lee County in recent months. Consistent vigilance and outreach are needed to keep the National Night Out momentum going.

It behooves us all to accept that challenge.