The Killeen area kicked off the nation’s 30th annual celebration of National Night Out on Tuesday night with dozens of barbecues in an event that helps prevent crime through good times.
“We like getting everybody together,” said Mandy Hollinger, whose block party’s consistent presentation of homemade cobbler and vanilla ice cream has become locally famous.
Police would look to their party on Illinois Avenue as a perfect example of how National Night Out is successful. Each year neighbors come out and greet each other on Hollinger’s block, relaxing on a mild fall evening.
After more than 10 years of holding their party, their smiles are wide, as neighbors who have become good friends see each other again.
Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said the parties help “forge relationships,” creating a familiarity among neighbors that can be utilized as a crime-fighting tool. “That’s what this
is all about,” he said.
Building a strong neighborhood community allows neighbors to spot suspicious behavior.
When neighbors become friends, they will know who is supposed to be on their block and who isn’t.
Mayor Dan Corbin, who attended several block parties Tuesday, said the annual event is by far the most successful form of community outreach between the police department and the community, drawing far more participants than regular community forums.
“You get to know your neighbors,” said Dana Quinn, a block captain for the Thunder Creek Community Association.
“You see them and wave hi, but this is a chance to get to talk to them.”
This year, the city of Killeen held 34 block parties, with participants all across the city.
Brookside Apartments management used the event as another way to build community among its tenants, with barbecued hot dogs and sausages poolside.
“It’s for the residents to get out to meet each other,” said complex manager Tammy Hale.
For the past 17 years, Bonnie Drive resident Jimmy Tittle has opened up his front yard for National Night Out block parties, and this year was no different.
“He puts a lot of effort into this, and it’s nice to see people come together,” said Amber Smith, a Harker Heights resident.
About 100 neighbors gathered to tell criminals that crime has no place in their neighborhood.
“This event gets people out on the street and talking to one another,” said Lt. David Ayer, Harker Heights Fire Department.
“It’s always good to know who your neighbors are.”
Dave Haley, the Harker Heights Police Department’s community services officer, said there were six National Night Out block parties spread throughout the city.
“We’ve got a good and safe neighborhood, but there is always room for improvement,” Tittle said. “What keeps me doing this party every year is my love for the people and this neighborhood.”
Residents in four neighborhoods participated in National Night Out festivities Tuesday.
“It is definitely a reassuring sight that we have so many people out here and we can interact with them,” said Cpl. Dominique Moore with the Copperas Cove Police Department.
The parties are a perfect chance for residents to get to know each other and officers, Moore said.
Night Out parties took place on Kim Avenue, White Mesa Circle, Rhonda Lee Street and Mattie Street.
It was nice for residents to meet police officers and firefighters who serve the residents during emergency, said Marty Smith, who organized the White Mesa event.
About 30 residents attended the White Mesa event. Among them were some new faces.
“I am still getting to know some of the neighbors and we have been here for five years,” said Kris Grimes, who attended the event.