Photo of a parking lot filled with vendor tents and stalls with people lining up for them.

As National Night Out Approaches Neighborhoods Prepare to Gather

by Elizabeth Turnbull

This Tuesday, Aug. 3, residents and neighbors throughout Seattle will participate in National Night Out, an event organized by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), and police departments across the country, to encourage community safety collaboration and communication with law enforcement.

Residents can use the opportunity to meet with neighbors who might collect mail when they’re gone and keep an eye on their home when absent. Law enforcement hopes that these types of connections will also help residents identify, and report, crime trends in their neighborhood. 

According to Jennifer Danner, a crime prevention coordinator with SPD, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept this year’s registration to about half of what it was in 2019, when roughly 1,400 parties registered for the event in Seattle. However, the layout of the event will remain largely the same — various neighborhood block parties, barbeques, and social gatherings where residents also have an excuse to combat the Seattle Freeze.

A ranking by U.S. News shows that, as of 2020, Seattle had a lower rate of crime than similarly sized metro areas overall. However, while violent crime rates in Seattle’s metropolitan areas were lower than the national rate, average rates of property crime in Seattle were higher.

Crime response and practices of policing have been a contentious issue after Derek Chauvin murdered Goerge Floyd last year, reminding Seattle residents of SPD officers who killed local Black residents in recent years and stoking protests to defund the department.  

During the first six months of 2021, incidents of gun violence have increased 33% and there has been a 60% increase in reported victims in King County. According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Seattle has also seen a spike in gun violence this year.

Current SPD Chief Adrian Diaz has referenced recent decreases in staffing for making it more difficult to respond to recent crime rates. Others remain more focused on maintaining public safety using different approaches.

Local activist Sean Goode is the executive director of Choose 180 — an organization that attempts to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and limit youth interactions with the criminal justice system. Goode has traditionally spoken against police institutions but says the most important part of National Night Out is building connections between neighbors.

“I don’t think we need to come together as a community to heighten our awareness around how we prevent crime from happening in conjunction with historical practices of policing,” said Goode. “I think if anything, we come together, we get a better understanding of how to improve public safety in our community.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

📸 Featured Image: A 2020 community gathering in Skyway. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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