For the first time, several area communities are joining forces in the annual National Night Out crime prevention event.
The Munroe Falls, Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge police departments will mark National Night Out at the Virginia O'Casek Party Center at the Summit County Fairgrounds in Tallmadge Aug. 5 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
"We're hoping to have a large crowd," said Munroe Falls Patrol Officer Jim Owens, who is coordinating the event. "It's free, it's informative and it's fun."
The event was initially planned for Guise Park in Munroe Falls, but Owens said that due to concerns that the park may not have adequate parking, the alternate location was selected.
"The fairground is kind of a central location for us," said Tallmadge Police Chief Don Zesiger, adding that it also has plenty of parking and the party center in case it rains.
The Stow Police Department is planning its annual National Night Out observance at the city's police department.
National Night Out, also dubbed "America's Night Out Against Crime," is an initiative of the National Association of Town Watch and started in 1984. It takes place the first Tuesday in August.
Its purpose, according to the NATW's website, is "to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back."
"I think it's a great opportunity for the law enforcement agencies to work together," said Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis.
"It's a great way to interact with the public and help people protect themselves from crime," said Zesiger.
Owens said that the event is sponsored by Target and Western Reserve Hospital.
"Target is donating enough food for 300 people," said Owens, adding that this includes hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and soda.
Owens said the event will allow participants to "have a good time" while they learn about a "serious subject." There will be exhibits on safety and crime prevention, and a sexual assault victim advocate will be on hand to provide information. Summit Metro Park rangers and representatives from the Ohio Search and Rescue Team are also expected.
Vehicles from the Ohio Highway Patrol, the fire departments of all three cities and the Cuyahoga Falls SWAT van will be on site. The fire departments will provide free blood pressure checks and information about alarm systems.
Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge police K-9 units are expected to provide demonstrations, but Owens said that Munroe Falls police K-9 Badger will be unavailable that night.
There will be games, with Target and McDonalds donating prizes, said Owens, and Ronald McDonald is scheduled to be present.
The three cities have had varying experiences with National Night Out in the past. In the last two years, Munroe Falls had volunteer, off-duty officers walking through the neighborhoods, talking with residents they encountered.
Davis said over the last few years, there had been smaller events at the Target store on Howe Road, but the city felt that partnering with the other cities was a chance to take it to the next level.
"It was an opportunity to change it up and make it a little bigger," he said.
Zesiger said that this is the first time Tallmadge has been involved in a National Night Out event. He said it is a "cooperative effort" that came out in talks with Munroe Falls Police Chief Tom Pozza.
"We just hope it's well attended," he said. "There's a lot of good information."
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