It’s been nearly 30 years since the inception of National Night Out Against Crime (NNO), when roughly two and a half million people, in 23 states, participated in what started as a crime prevention measure. The basic premise behind NNO was to forge police and community partnerships, to encourage bonds among community members and to send a message to bad guys that there was an organized program for citizens to fight back.
On this Tuesday night our area’s precincts joined by hosting their events as part of what now involves nearly 40 million people from 50 states, U.S. territories, cities in Canada and at military bases worldwide. NNO for the 104th precinct was just a few blocks from the station house at Joseph Mafera Park on Catalpa Avenue and 65th Place.
Crowds gathered once again for what continues to reign as a favorite community event and for children; a giant playground where they mixed and mingled with the police from the command and hundreds of other kids. Bouncy castles, a water slide, giant slide and a jousting ring were among the colorful air-filled attractions sponsored by the precinct. There were hot dogs, snacks, juice and water.
Elected officials including Assemblymember Mike Miller, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan were joined by representatives from the mayor’s office and other police brass. A short ceremony featured the presentation of a proclamation to commanding officer,Captain Christopher Manson, and brief comments by electeds. Mostly everything, however, centered on what is at the heart of the night.
There was some speculation among visitors to the 104th Precinct’s National Night Out as to whether the event is correctly named. “I don’t know why they call it that,” questioned Maspeth resident Jose Penos, “it really is a night for families given by our cops. People should know that,” the father of three said. Penos has been coming to the event with his kids for several years and says the night is a chance for everybody to talk to the police that protect them every day in a “good” situation. “It’s good for kids today to see cops like regular people—you can have a good time with them and then when they are working, you remember they are helping you and you respect them. Very simple.”
MacDonald Park, on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone and 70th Road in Forest Hills, was the setting for the 112th Precinct’s event, which featured a number of live entertainers, singers and a neighborhood chorus.
The crowd spilled over onto streets around the park, neighbors chatting amongst each other and with police from their command. Long time resident Mona Hirsch says NNO is a great way to say hi, not only to the police,but to neighbors. “Communication,” said the 87-year-old, “is the key to safety. These things put us more in touch. You know, with everything going on here lately,” she jested, “maybe we need a National Month Out.”
Hirsch said that community concerns were high during a recent rash of burglaries and robberies that plagued the precinct. “This is a great opportunity to come talk to the cops and get the assurance that we need. When you meet them like this, you just feel safer.”
Story and Photos by Patricia Adams