Opinion

Night Out's good results may not be so noticeable

There’s a whole lot more to fighting crime than cops putting criminals in handcuffs and hauling them off to jail.

Events like the National Night Out community gathering held this week can contribute to preventing crime and making the community safer.

It might not yield immediate, tangible results, but the Night Out draws people together in a fun atmosphere, and hopefully they’ll go home with a greater sense of how citizens, law enforcement agencies and civic-minded community groups can cooperate to prevent all manner of crime, from graffiti to burglary to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Tuesday night’s waterfront get-together gave people a chance to interact with police officers in a friendly setting, instead of “with red lights flashing in their rearview mirror,” as one officer observed while waiting in line to get a hot dog.

There’s always plenty of crime news in this paper and from all media outlets about car prowls, robberies, drug busts, homicides, etc. Crimes can be counted, categorized and mapped.

It’s more difficult to determine and report on whether National Night Out efforts actually help reduce or prevent criminal activity. Raising awareness, one of the stated goals of the event, is a vague but nonetheless important concept.

Maybe a parent who was there Tuesday night will be motivated to talk to his or her children about how to protect themselves from bullies, on the playground or online.

Maybe some folks will organize a Block Watch program in a neighborhood plagued by drug dealing.

Maybe a potential victim of sexual abuse will have a better sense of how to recognize a predator who may target her, and report him to authorities instead of remaining silent and fearful.

Maybe a couple will think about how they treat each other before an argument erupts into domestic violence.

If this week’s community event leads to any of those outcomes, then some good will come from a night of good times.

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