By the Portland Crime Prevention Program
Marie Phillipi hand-delivers invitations to her neighbors for their annual National Night Out (NNO) party on their SE Portland block. This gesture improves turnout and encourages new neighbors to attend. Residents bring tables, chairs and potluck dishes to set up in their neighbor’s front yard. Holding a NNO party for the last twenty years has helped bring neighbors together. Over time, they have built a cohesive neighborhood, one where people care about and look out for one another. This is the foundation for a safer and more resilient community, which is helpful for crime prevention efforts and recovery following a natural disaster. But you don’t have to wait until a problem occurs or a natural disaster happens to get to know your neighbors. When you are connected, you will be better prepared to address crime and public safety issues in your neighborhood.
The first NNO party was launched over thirty years ago in Philadelphia based on a simple premise. Residents could take back their neighborhoods by gathering with other neighbors on their streets, turning on their exterior lights and committing to look out for one another and their neighborhood. NNO has grown into a yearly event held on the first Tuesday of August in thousands of cities across the United States and Canada. In the City of Portland, the Crime Prevention Program is responsible for coordinating NNO. Local police officers, firefighters and other city officials attend many of the parties to build relationships and trust with community members. When you register with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s Crime Prevention Program, you choose whether or not you want police officers or fire personnel to attend your party; your party will only be included on the specific list given to the police bureau or the one given to the fire bureau if you request for them to attend your party. When neighbors know each other, pay attention to the activities on their street and know how and when to call the police, the neighborhood will be a safer place to live.
National Night Out is a great excuse to bring the neighbors together.
Parties don’t have to be elaborate, expensive or require a lot of preparation. Many of your neighbors will be willing to help out. The point is to get your immediate neighbors together. Gatherings range from potlucks held in the driveway, front or back yard, ice cream socials, block parties to parties in the park.
Whenever we visit a National Night Out party, neighbors are clearly enjoying each other’s company and having a great time. “It’s a time for all of us neighbors to get together, share news, food, joy, as well as fasten our friendships and commitment to watch out for each other,” says Ute Munger of SE Portland, a longtime block party host. When neighbors have problems on their street, some have found comfort organizing an NNO party to renew their energy in the neighborhood.
Games or activities are a great way for neighbors to connect, especially when icebreaker activities are in the mix. Ask sociable neighbors to introduce neighbors to each other and lead the games. Potential activities include:
- Bingo / loteria
- Soccer in the yard, park or blocked off street
- Water balloon toss
- Icebreaker activities
- Musical chairs
- Contact list. Create or update a neighborhood contact list with names and pets of each household, emails and phone numbers. The list allows neighbors to communicate if something happens at a home or in the neighborhood.
For more game ideas, visit our webpage at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/article/633020
If you live in the City of Portland and are interested in organizing a NNO party, the following information will get you started:
- Date of NNO: Tuesday, August 1st. In Portland, residents can also throw a NNO party from Friday, July 28 – Sunday, August 6.
- Information about NNO: www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/nno. You can register here and learn about party games, reserving a park or street for a block party and much more.
- Registration deadline: Tuesday, July 18. If you need help with registration, call the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program at 503-823-4064. Registration is free.
- Why register? You can request police or firefighters, noise variances and more.
- Find a party: Toward the end of July, a list of neighborhood association and larger parties in Portland will be posted at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/nno.
National Night Out is a great excuse to bring the neighbors together. It can help you build a stronger, safer and more resilient community. In Ute’s neighborhood they now get together throughout the year for activities such as barbecues, soup and pizza nights. Together neighbors have built the kind of community where they look out for one another and want to stay in their neighborhood.
To request a free training for your organization or community group on crime prevention topics, access our prevention handouts or find your Crime Prevention Coordinator, visit the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program website at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/cp for English; portlandoregon.gov/oni/prevencion for Spanish or call 503-823-4064.