National Night Out (NNO) has a long history of connecting community residents with their local law enforcement agencies. Since its inception in 1984, the events have grown from 2.5 million community members across 400 communities in 23 states in the campaign’s first year to 38 million community members across 16,000 communities in all 50 states preparing for National Night Out 2022.
The NNO campaign provides local law enforcement agencies of any size with an opportunity to create lasting partnerships with their community by involving them and engaging with them to produce a successful event. Two departments, in particular, demonstrated success with their National Night Out events, which helped earn them recognition in LAW Publications’ Community Engagement Awards.
Conroe Police Department: Going Big for National Night Out
Conroe Police Department–who earned Honorable Mention in our 2021 Community Engagement Awards–in Conroe, Texas, has hosted National Night Out events for over 15 years with each year attracting more citizens, organizations, and businesses than the last. Thanks to their many community partnerships, their NNO event boasts bounce houses, a DJ, and games free of charge to residents and their children. For the last few years, Kroger has been a reliable partner and supporter of Conroe PD’s NNO event, offering their parking lot as the location for the event as well as providing food items. Other previous vendors, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Pepsi, and Kona Ice have donated items for the event, which are given free to the community.
In addition to local businesses, Conroe PD involves different local first responder agencies, military recruiting offices, healthcare providers, and even the local court, each of which supply their own activity for the event. For example, HCA Healthcare brings their Life Flight Helicopter, Conroe Fire Department sends a live smoke house, Conroe Municipal Court brings seat belt simulators, and each branch of the military brings equipment, such as rock climbing walls and the Army’s Black Hawk Helicopter.
The department itself supplies their SWAT vehicle, equipment, and officers; Mobile Crime Scene Unit; motorcycle officers; Mobile Command Unit, with tours for event-goers; and many officers from the department. Most city officials from the city of Conroe attend the event as well. With the outstanding support from the community and the successful partnerships that Conroe PD has formed within their city, they certainly have a stand-out National Night Out event. In fact, this year's event will be covered live by a local radio station.
Grafton Police Department: Collaborating with Local Organizations
In August of 2021, Grafton Police Department–who earned the “Community Spirit Award” in our 2021 Community Engagement Awards–in Grafton, Wisconsin, hosted their first ever National Night Out event for their county, Ozaukee. In partnership with other law enforcement agencies in the county, their event drew an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 guests, which is an impressive attendance count compared to their town’s population of approximately 11,500. Through partnerships with local community organizations, their first NNO event gathered over 500 pounds of donated food and $766 in monetary donations to their local food bank. At their event, they offered a multitude of activities that allowed Grafton PD officers to connect with and provide education to community members, including the distribution of LAW Publications’ materials.
The main host of the annual National Night Out event in Ozaukee County is rotated between different jurisdictions in the county with the other agencies playing a supporting role. This year, Grafton PD will be supporting their friends in Thiensville, Wisconsin, as they host the event. Last year's event was full of fun for the community with free food, games, a petting zoo, and a raffle, which could be entered by donating non-perishable food items that would be given to the county food banks. Participating departments brought police cars, K9 units, Special Operations vehicles, and more. Each year, the event continues to grow, demonstrating that even a brand new event can be a success when approached the right way. With seven jurisdictions in the county, the next time Grafton will host NNO will be in 2028.
Whether your town has never hosted a National Night Out event in its history or you’ve had many successful years of NNO events, there is always something to be learned from what other law enforcement agencies have done. Partnering with local organizations and businesses is a great place to start when organizing a National Night Out event. After all, the goal of NNO is to encourage community participation and improve or build community relationships with law enforcement. Both Conroe and Grafton PDs exemplify what a successful NNO event can look like, no matter how long the history of the event is in the community.