Ask a Chief: A couple of weeks ago, my friend told me that she was hosting a “Night to Unite” party for her neighborhood. What is Night to Unite and how can I get involved with it next year?

A: Night to Unite (AKA National Night Out) is an annual event held in communities throughout Minnesota and across the nation, usually on the first Tuesday in August. The focus of Night to Unite is to bring neighbors together at an event that allows them to get to know each other and to meet their local public safety professionals.

Usually one or two people from a neighborhood organize the event and invite their neighbors to a central location for a gathering. These gatherings range from a simple ice cream social, to an elaborate cookout with games and prizes for kids. In any case, the event helps to heighten crime awareness in the neighborhood, strengthens the bond between neighbors, and lets criminals know that the people in the neighborhood are supporting each other.

Often part of the gathering is a visit from police, fire and EMS personnel. When one of our officers attends a Night to Unite gathering, they come prepared with the crime statistics for the neighborhood they are visiting and a newsletter with tips on preventing some of our most prevalent crimes.

In 2012, there were 37 individual Night to Unite parties held in Elk River, and we hope to grow this number in 2013. I would encourage anyone interested in hosting a neighborhood party to contact the department’s Crime Prevention Specialist, Cheryll Edinger at 763-635-1200 or by email at [email protected]