By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsOctober 4, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 4, 2011 -- Criminals beware. Communities are organized and engaged to fight illegal activities.
That was the message Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Services, joined by area law enforcement agencies, sent Sept. 22 at the kick off for Texas' statewide National Night Out campaign during a press conference at the installation's Marvin Leath Visitors Center.
Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Service, or DES, was selected to announce the statewide kick-off for National Night Out by its partners in the Central Texas Crime Prevention Association, or CTCPA, in recognition of the post's proactive and effective crime prevention efforts.
"Fort Hood is on the leading edge of bringing communities together," said Deputy James Kitchens, Travis County Sheriff Department and Texas National Night Out committee president.
Although the post celebrated National Night Out with festivities held Aug. 2, the decision was made to join the state in marking the celebration Oct. 4. Nationwide, National Night Out festivities are traditionally held in August, but because of the Texas heat, the state marks the night later in the year, Kitchens added.
For Fort Hood law enforcement, a second National Night Out is yet another opportunity to meet residents and reinforce the partnerships shared with area communities. This celebration will be more low-key than the August observance.
"On October 4th we will have an increased presence across the installation's 13 housing villages," explained Chris Zimmer, deputy director of Fort Hood DES. "We are asking residents to show their participation by turning on their porch lights."
Some villages will host neighborhood activities that night, as well, including visits from McGruff the Crime Dog and law enforcement and fire department representatives.
Engaging residents and building relationships between law enforcement officers and those in the community is crucial to preventing crime.
"One of the biggest crime prevention tools we have is our neighborhoods," said Sgt. Andrew Samarripa, Community Police, Fort Hood.
Zimmer said that although National Night Out is traditionally celebrated only once a year, it is a yearlong campaign to heighten crime prevention awareness, strengthen community and police relationships and send a message to criminals that residents, police and business owners are organized in a collective effort to keep neighborhoods safe.
At Fort Hood, DES officers work at building and strengthening relationships within the community during outreach events and town hall meetings throughout the year. National Night Out is another opportunity for residents to not only meet with law enforcement, but also their neighbors.
The night also is another opportunity for law enforcement officers to further partnerships with neighboring agencies and share resources.
During the announcement to kick off Texas' National Night Out, Zimmer and Kitchens were joined by law enforcement representatives and members of the CTCPA from Fort Hood, Nolanville, Belton, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas, Pflugerville, Hays County, Brazos County, West Lake Hills, Travis County and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Fort Hood's selection to host the Texas National Night Out announcement was another example of the strong relationships the directorate has already built.
Though National Night Out has long enjoyed a strong presence and turnout in Texas' larger cities, especially in the Austin area, the Fort Hood area is gaining momentum in the crime prevention arena.
"We've always had a lot of representation with National Night Out in Austin," Darrell Halstead, president, CTCPA, said. "The idea to host the press conference here helps to bring in Waco, Harker Heights, Temple and other local agencies."
Halstead said Fort Hood's membership with CTCPA, which DES joined in 2009, has had a huge impact on crime prevention through the sharing of ideas and information, adding that community involvement and building are the purpose of any crime prevention effort.
"We're all in this together," he said. "There's no room for crime."