BRADENTON -- National Night Out has become an American fixture the first Tuesday night in August over the past three decades and it certainly has struck a chord in Manatee County.
"America's Night Out Against Crime" has mushroomed to involve more than 37 million residents in more than 15,000 communities across all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.
In Manatee County, Chief Michael Radzilowski of the Bradenton Police Department said National Night Out is a crime deterrent and a morale booster.
"Oh, I think it's both," Radzilowski said. "It gives neighbors an opportunity to meet and bond more with their neighbors. Police can't do it all by themselves."
At least 21 Neighborhood Watch organizations in Bradenton have events scheduled Tuesday and all will be attended by BPD personnel assigned as a community liaison.
"All the officers will go to the neighborhood where they've been assigned," Radzilowski said. "Whoever is having an event, we'll be there. Community policing is a philosophy and this night plays right into our police-for-prevention philosphy."
It will be deja vu in October as Bradenton takes part in a second National Night Out.
"We'll do it twice," Radzilowski said. "Some places put it off until October because of the heat. We'll do both."
National Night Out is the brainchild of the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch, which promotes crime prevention programs such as Neighborhood Watch.
National Night Out began in Aug. 7, 1984, as an effort to promote crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
National Night Out has since settled in annually on the first Tuesday of August in most states. NATW Executive Director Matt Peskin said on the organizations website the first National Night Out drew 2.5 million participants from 400 communities in 23 states.
The traditional "lights on" campaign and symbolic front-porch vigils turned into a celebration across America with activities including block parties, cookouts, parades, visits from emergency personnel, rallies and marches, exhibits, youth events, safety demonstrations and seminars.
"While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round," Peksin said on his website. "The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days."
Given the recent shootings in Manatee County, Radzilowski said the timing of this year's National Night Out is valuable.
Bradenton National Night Out event times and locations:
4 p.m. -- Village Green, 6610 16th Ave. Drive W.; and Twin Lakes, 5122 15th Ave, W.
5 p.m. -- Cambridge Village West, 6500 Heritage Lane clubhouse; Tanglewood, 2605 ongbird Lane pool area
5:30 p.m. -- Heritage Lane, 6903 Arbor Oaks Court; Solana Vista/Cordova Villas, 5801 Fisherman's Drive Clubhouse; Pinebrook/Ironwood; and Cortez Villas, 4110 36th Ave. W.
6 p.m. -- Hertiage Village West, 6903 Arbor Oaks Court; Palms of Cortez, 4802 51st St. W. clubhouse pool; Highland Lakes, 4811 Dundee Drive clubhouse; 26th Avenue Court West, 5308 26th Ave. Court W.; and Palma Sola Trace, 7408 Hamilton clubhouse.
6:30 p.m. -- Cordova Lakes, 3404 68th St. W.; Sawgrass Cove, 4801 47th Ave. W.; Freedom Villas, Fredom Village the Landing by the fireplace; Courtyard Square, 2901 29th Ave. W.; and Lakeside South, 3417 40th Ave. W. clubhouse.
7 p.m. -- 64th Street West Morningside, 3000 block of 64th Street West; Village West/Westfield Woods, 4501 36th Ave. W. pool area; and Pine LKES, 24TH Avenue West between 39th and 42nd streets.