National Night Out comes to downtown Tacoma

People gathered on Fawcett Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets in downtown Tacoma Tuesday evening in a show of community spirit and to send a message to criminals.

It was just one of many such celebrations in the South Sound and across the nation as part of the 21st annual National Night Out, an event designed to heighten awareness of crime – including drug and violence prevention – and generate support for local anti-crime programs.

This was the first time a National Night Out event was held in downtown Tacoma, and from the look of things it was a success.

The three-hour event – held between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. – drew a large crowd of people, who milled about the two blocks of Fawcett Avenue enjoying a variety of food and activities.

A long line of people formed for barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, jazz music wafted through the air courtesy of a talented saxophone player, break dancers entertained the crowd and people got to know their neighbors.

National Night Out also provided an opportunity for people to meet the police officers and fire department personnel who help protect and serve them. Several politicians, including some City Council members, turned out for the event as well.

There were also several activities aimed at children, including face painting, the handing out of balloons and an appearance by Sparky the Fire Dog, who gave out toy fire department badges, earning several hugs from excited youngsters.

All across the South Sound and beyond, in neighborhoods, on the streets and at local parks and community centers, National Night Out was celebrated.

Attendees enjoyed block parties, barbecues, picnics, cook outs, safety fairs with representative from police and fire departments and other events.

Nationwide, some 10,000 communities and 33 million people were expected to participate.

National Night Out was started in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch.

Safe Streets, a non-profit organization, has sponsored local celebrations of National Night Out for the last 12 years.

Safe Streets helps organize block groups that increase neighborliness and reduce crime.

Safe Street’s block organizing work improves a community’s livability, creating better parks, improved housing, safe activities for youth and a better environment for area businesses.

Last year, there were 112 Tacoma and unincorporated Pierce County celebrations registered with Safe Streets.

This year, other local National Night Out celebrations included gatherings at Wapato Estates, a neighborhood that was the site of a Thanksgiving night shooting in 2002, and the former neighborhood of the D.C. area sniper. Live music and a children’s basketball tournament was held at the 72nd Street and Puget Sound Avenue. Live music and cultural dance performances took place at 44th Street and Portland Avenue area at Salishan. A carnival was the theme of the get-together on the 7600 block between Sheridan and Yakima streets. Stewart Heights Park celebrated the Stewart Heights Neighborhood Coalition’s year-long effort to clean the park up and eliminate criminal activity in the area.

Local National Night Out supporters include the Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff, and the cities of Tacoma, Fircrest, Lakewood, University Place, Bonney Lake and Sumner, and many other organizations.