Lawbreakers take notice.
Criminal activity will not be tolerated in Jimmy Tittle’s neighborhood. He made that clear more than 16 years ago when he started hosting annual National Night Out block parties at his home and again last year when he organized a watch program in his Bonnie Drive neighborhood in north Harker Heights.
“We have four block captains — five including me,” Tittle said. “We don’t try to be cops or nothing; if we see something suspicious we call the authorities.”
Tittle is opening his home — or his front yard — once again Tuesday for his 16th annual National Night Out celebration. He has lots of food, games and entertainment planned for neighbors who want to spend the evening getting acquainted.
And that’s the key to eliminating crime, said Dave Haley, Harker Heights Police Department community services officer.
“It just comes down to getting know your neighbor,” he said. “We’ve found out that people live next door to each for two or three years, and they have no idea who their neighbors are.”
Tittle, a retired maintenance custodian, capitalized on that idea with his National Night Out parties, which often draw more than 150 people from around the Harker Heights area.
“He always has a good party, he always puts a lot into it,” Haley said. “He knows how to get people involved, and that’s what we need. For anything to work, it has to have someone with that personality to get people involved.”
“We can make a difference” is the theme for Tittle’s party this year. Some of the entertainment scheduled includes a Michael Jackson tribute, musical performances by the First Baptist Church of Harker Heights choir, carnival-style games for the kids and lots of door prizes. Tittle’s son, also named Jimmy, will cook hamburgers, hot dogs and fajitas for guests, while neighbors are asked to bring pot-luck side dishes to share. Police officers, city officials and McGruff the Crime Dog also will be on hand to meet and greet neighbors.
There’s never a cost to attend the celebration, but Tittle is doing something different this year. He’s asking neighbors to bring non-perishable canned food items to the party to donate to the Harker Heights Food Care Center.
Reducing area crime
As of Wednesday, Haley said the police department had eight Harker Heights neighborhoods registered to hold National Night Out block parties on Tuesday.
“They are pretty much (located) in every major part of town — by Nolanville Elementary all the way out by the lake, by the new middle school off Mountain Lion, down the street from the police department,” he said. “I’d rather have eight like that than eight in one part of town. This means people are wanting to get involved.”
National Night Out is a nationwide event designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send messages to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. Police also hope that the event inspires people to organize their own neighborhood watch programs, which Haley said have helped reduce crime in Harker Heights.
“We’ve had mobile home parks that have been less than desirable, and simply by starting a neighborhood watch, it’s turned them into a place that people want to move into,” he said.
Tittle also believes in the power of the neighborhood watch and the effectiveness of National Night Out parties. For that reason, he said he plans to continue to host the parties for years to come.
“I just want everyone to get along,” he said. “If we can look after one another … and give something back to the community, the bad guys won’t come around.”
Tittle’s National Night Out party is from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at 402 Bonnie Drive, Harker Heights. For the locations of National Night Out celebrations scheduled in other areas of the city Tuesday or to register a neighborhood block party, call Haley at (254) 953-5410 or (254) 953-5412.