Local News

Hoover police want to be more neighborly, so they're throwing a cookout.

On Tuesday, August 6, Hoover police and fire departments, local businesses and community activists will come together for the third annual National Night Out, letting civilians mix and mingle with local authorities over hamburgers, fire trucks, police dogs, motorcycles, finger painting, fingerprinting and one sweet Porsche 911 - seized from a drug dealer, of course.

National Night Out, which has been held in communities around the country every August since 1980, was started to raise awareness of law enforcement resources and crime prevention techniques, recruit for local neighborhood watch groups and encourage regular folks to take a hand in stopping crime in their neighborhoods.

"This does give a very low-key opportunity for our residents to come out and see what law enforcement, the fire department has to offer," said Officer Brian Foreman of the Hoover Police Department. "We can give them a better understanding of the tools we have available and the way we can serve them."

In addition to the games and free food, a police helicopter will be on display, motorcycle officers will demonstrate their skills and bomb disposal squad and SWAT members will hang around to answer questions. 

But the event is most valuable, Foreman explained, as a way to educate and arm ordinary citizens to take a part in their own security.

"Quite frankly, [community participation] is the most cost effective way to reduce crime in a residential area, really there's no substitute for it because no one knows you like your neighbors."

The event will feature resources for people interested in the Neighborhood Watch and info on how to stay connected to law enforcement through social media. Kids can learn about avoiding strangers and how to use a fire extinguisher, and parents can have their children fingerprinted for free, providing them with a confidential digital fingerprint record they can supply authorities in case of a runaway or kidnapping.  

"Even if you don't participate in the watch, having an awareness of what crime trends are out there and what techniques criminals are using go a long way to prevent you from becoming a victim."

Target has sponsored Hoover's National Night Out since the city started participating in 2010, providing volunteers, equipment and food for a turnout that has reached more than 4000 in that last few years. Nathan Hamblin from the Hoover branch said Target supports community involvement on a micro level to throw off the corporate image and act more like a neighborhood business.

"We're almost up to $5 million of community giving on a weekly basis for Target, and that's revenue we're able to pump back into local communities and states," Hamblin said.

But community image is also important for law enforcement, said Foreman. "Unfortunately when we do have contact with the citizenry, it's because either a law has been violated or they've called us in an emergency situation."

The event aims to help citizens see their public servants more as neighbors than authority figures.

And of course, police will bring their seized Porsche 911.

"That's always a popular exhibit. It's kind of a marquee to show off what happens if you get involved in drug trafficking."

 The department had the car outfitted it with lights repainted in police colors, a $100,000 reminder that crime doesn't pay. 

National Night Out will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the parking lot of the Grove Shopping Center off Highway 150 and I-459 in Hoover. 

Published: July 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Updated: July 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm
Jared Downing | jdowning@al.com
The Birmingham News 
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