Thousands of neighbors across the metro will be stepping outside tonight, grilling out and playing games. At least 65 block parties are planned throughout Omaha alone, when National Night Out gets underway.
"It encourages people to get out into their community and build relationships with their neighbors," said La Vista Police Detective Jamie Schuster. "It also helps foster a relationship between the community and the police department."
La Vista's big celebration will take place at Central Park, north of Giles Rd. off Edgewood Blvd., starting at 6 p.m. "We've got a free community cookout that we'll be doing. We'll have some [police and fire] vehicles on display," said Schuster. "And we'll also be having a dinosaur egg hunt." That hunt will be for various melons, which children will collect to be eaten during the evening.
The point of the party runs much deeper than fun and games. "If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, you look out for each other. You keep each other safe. You know if things aren't usual," said Schuster.
Apartments, like Timber Creek, 137th and Harrison St., are getting in on that proactive strategy as well. They, too, have a block party planned within the complex.
One resident, Kim Gilmore, even established a Neighborhood Watch program about three months ago. "Due to all the mischievous things that go on on property," she said. "Things that go on off property that continue on to Timber Creek property seem to be a big issue and has been for the last ten years I've been living here."
Apartment life, where residents can tend to turn over quickly, comes with challenges. Neighbors don't always know each other, and they don't always know what's strange and what isn't. "We also may have individuals targeting apartments because those may be more vulnerable populations," said Larrene Myles, the on-site Resident Services Coordinator with Mercy Housing Midwest.
But shared walls and shared parking lots can also be a benefit, she said. "You may be in a position where you are more prompted to get out and get to know your neighbors... rather than drive into our garages each evening."
Gilmore is hoping to see more tenants come together in vigilance. "Making ourselves more aware can make a difference in keeping some of this type of criminal activity behavior and elements off the property."
For those not attending organized block parties, police urge turning porch lights on. It's a simple way to participate, yet a powerful way to help deter crime.