published: Sunday, August 05, 2012
National Night Out brings residents, law enforcement together
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
National Night Out returns this year to Highlands County to show appreciation to residents who stick around throughout the year as well as raise awareness about crime while heightening community spirit and strengthening ties with local law enforcement.
For 29 years, NNO has been bringing residents out of their houses and into their streets for fun and fighting back.
Highlands County Sheriff's Office is gearing up for this year's NNO, which will be held on Tuesday.
Nell Hays, HCSO public information officer, is once again coordinating the event that will be held in various locations around the county.
"We have seven locations this year. The idea behind National Night Out is to get people out of their homes, turn their porch lights on and take back their streets," Hays explained.
The NNO event has been taking place in the county for several years; it was first began in the late 1990s but took a long hiatus. According to Hays, NNO has occurred in Highlands County for the past four years.
Two challenges arise, however, with planning the NNO event for Hays.
"Our problem is we are seasonal. There aren't a whole lot of people here in August but we still want to have the event the same night as the national organization does. It is important that we (HCSO) pay back to the people that are in these communities in the off-season. They have been our eyes and will continue to be even when the winter folks return," Hays said.
The other issue Hays has run into with NNO is a monetary one. NNO is nationally sponsored by Target stores.
"It's a challenge because we don't have a Target ... I've reached out to the closest stores but they haven't responded yet. So we (HCSO) foot the whole bill, which is fine.
"This is something that I budget for and believe in; the sheriff believes in it too," Hays said.
NNO will take place in seven communities throughout Highlands County. (Hays hopes to continue to expand the number of communities in the upcoming years.) The NNO event will offer residents a number of activities right outside their doors.
"We will be having food available; hot dog, chips and beverages. There'll be cooks at each of the locations as well as shows and K-9 demonstrations.
"We want the residents to meet some of the sheriff's office staff that they may not be familiar with. We just want to show thanks to the people that have been here," Hays said.
The events will begin simultaneously in each of the communities at 6 p.m.
For more information on NNO visit www.natw.org/.
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