The 12th Annual National Night Out Against Crime is Aug. 1, and the theme is, once again, “Give Neighborhood Crime and Drugs A Going-Away Party.”

National Night Out is an opportunity for neighbors to celebrate their crime watch efforts, show their appreciation for police officers and send a message about the importance of stopping crime.

I wish I could list the names of all the neighbors and police officers I’ve had the pleasure to work with since May 9, 1990, when my Neighborhood Crime Watch group was formed.

But, since I would want to explain the contribution of each individual and don’t have the space, I will focus on one – Sgt. Tony Crawford of the Northeast Operations Division.

Tony was the guest speaker at the first Area Chairpersons meeting I attended. His enthusiasm about Crime Watch was contagious, so I invited him to speak at my next Crime Watch meeting.

A few months later, Tony was shot by a juvenile. When I heard the news report, my reaction was shock and sadness. This was someone I knew. Someone I shook hands with, spoke with, introduced to people and looked forward to working with on future projects.

Many neighbors didn’t meet Tony before he became a “mobile cop.” They just know him as the red-headed officer in the wheelchair. They recognize and respect him as much as the other officers they meet.

It truly angers me that his life has been changed by the brutal actions of others. However, I admire him for turning any negative attitudes he may have into very positive ones.

He can definitely speak about the need for keeping our young people off the streets, off drugs and in school. Tony has touched the lives of more people than he realizes.

The Celebration

In my neighborhood, we recognize National Night Out as part of an old-fashioned celebration – neighbors turn on their outside lights and visit under the street lighting at my home. Introductions are made, and name tags are provided. Officers from the Northeast Substation are invited, and many join us throughout the evening. Last year, we had our most impressive turnout of police officers; even Chief Ben Click stopped by briefly.

We serve lemonade and snacks, including homemade vanilla ice cream, cakes and cookies. Last year, I looked out my kitchen window and saw two kids run up to an officer only seconds after he and his partner had stepped onto the curb. These kids were thrilled to see cops and wanted to show their appreciation with some good old-fashioned hospitality.

National Night Out tells the bad guys: “Stay out of our neighborhood. If you’re suspicious, we’ll notice and report you.” But it also sends a message to the good guys: “We appreciate, admire and respect you.”

If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Area 1107 B-215 during National Night Out, because my neighbors don’t want me to enjoy the leftovers.

They finally discovered that each year, I hide some of that homemade ice cream. They’re such good, nosy neighbors, they even keep an eye on me.