Rockville and Olney will join forces with thousands of communities nationwide Tuesday to celebrate National Night Out, a crime prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.
The event is designed to generate neighborhood support and participation in crime prevention efforts and to enhance police and community relations.
Olney’s event, hosted by the Olney Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Montgomery County Police Department, Maryland-National Capital Park Police and Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department, will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Fair Hill Shopping Center at the intersection of Md. 108 and Spartan Road.
“This year marks the 21st time Olney has been part of this nationwide event,” said Jon Hulsizer, the chamber’s executive director.
Since it started in 1984, National Night Out has grown to include more than 14,000 communities, he said.
“Last year, despite gloomy weather forecasts, over 2,000 Olney area residents turned out to share the interaction with our police and fire heroes,” Hulsizer said.
The Olney event will feature musical entertainment, raffles, food, police and fire vehicles, SWAT team demonstrations, Park Police horses, search and rescue dogs, goggles that simulate drunken driving, child fingerprinting, crime prevention information and emergency response personnel to meet with residents.
Local business and organizations will have exhibits, with children’s activities to include face painting, games and crafts. New this year is a photo booth, with costumes and accessories.
Hulsizer said all net proceeds would benefit the Olney Police Satellite Station Fund, Maryland-National Capital Park Police and Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department.
“To date, over $50,000 has been raised for police and fire departments, and we’d like to exceed last year’s record of $4,000,” he said.
Unlike Olney’s central celebration, Rockville participates in National Night Out with multiple activities throughout the city.
As a symbol of promoting anti-crime and anti-drug awareness, Rockville residents are invited to turn on outdoor lights as part of the traditional display of front porch vigils, sending the message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back against crime.
Rockville Police Cpl. Kenneth Matney said National Night Out is very much community-based, ranging from small court parties with potluck dinners to the College Gardens event, which typically draws 400 to 500 people.
“There are probably 30 to 50 different events planned, which run the gamut,” he said. “We ask for a list, and help to promote them all. The mayor, council and other dignitaries try to visit as many different events as they can.”
Neighborhoods, churches and other groups will host their own events, with activities such as cookouts, moon bounces, giveaways, carnival games and prizes, while providing an opportunity for neighbors to spend some time together.
Matney said having multiple events works well.
“We started National Night Out about 30 years ago, and people love it,” he said. “There is always a great response. Easily thousands attend each year.”