On Tue. August 4, police departments across the country took to the parks to celebrate National Night Out. In Austin’s 15th District, several hundred people converged at Moore Park, 5085 W. Adams St., to mix and mingle with area police officers.
Since 1984, communities across the United States and Canada have gathered on the first Tuesday of August for the event, which is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The night is designed to advance awareness about law enforcement programs and various anti-crime initiatives, in addition to enhancing the relationship between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.
“Parents let the kids have their fun. Tonight is our night,” said 15th District Commander Dwayne Betts. “Tonight is about crime prevention and awareness. Take this time to at least shake a police officer’s hand, talk to an officer; because we really do care. We want to talk to you. We are stronger together and together we’re stronger.”
Families ate. Kids hopped around in an inflatable bounce house. Adults talked to representatives from various community organizations and institutions such as the By The Hand Club and ComEd. Young boys skipped, hopped and pivoted on a crowded basketball court. Everyone basked under the warm summer sun to the tunes of local talent like Joy Binion, 14.
Binion said she’s been singing since she was 10-years-old and has even performed for notables like Congressman Danny K. Davis. Her mother, Phalese Binion, is the president of the West Side Ministers Coalition and active in 15th District affairs.
“I’m glad that I can take advantage of the fact that I can do what I love, so in the future people can remember me,” Joy Binion said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I remember her. She sang for something so small, once.'”
Perhaps one of those people will be Terrica Purcell, 21, who had turned up at Night Out by coincidence. Purcell said she was simply taking a stroll with her young son David when she happened on the crowd.
“I was just bringing him to the park and I saw all these people,” she said. “I think things like this help out a lot. They keep kids off the street and may lead them to do the right things. The older people set examples for the young kids, so I think they should do this more often — not because of some special event, but like as a just-because thing.”‘