It won’t be the National Night Out celebration Cleburne residents have come to know and look forward to the past several years thanks to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
But pandemic or no pandemic, National Night Out is on, Cleburne Police Chief Rob Severance said, and it’s on tonight.
“I always look forward to visiting with many of you each National Night Out,” Severance said. “This year’s a little different, but it’s still important for all of us in the community to participate because it’s still an opportunity for the community to show support for law enforcement and send a strong message that Cleburne will not tolerate crime.”
The purpose of National Night Out, now in its 37th year, is to foster dialogue and partnerships between community members, law enforcement and other first responders and to promote crime education and awareness through neighborhood community watch groups and other endeavors.
For this year’s event, safety trumps the larger scale community celebrations of past years, Cleburne Officer Kerri Abbott said.
“We’re asking that this year be individual family-style picnic gatherings in your own front yard,” Abbott said. “We do not want any large gatherings because we want to maintain social distancing and safety.”
Cleburne police officers and firefighters still plan to be out and about between 6-8 p.m. tonight to visit residents in various neighborhoods throughout the city.
As always, but especially this year, residents are encouraged to:
• Decorate their front yards.
• Display anti-crime signs and posters.
• Turn their porch light on or replace it with a blue light bulb.
The last stems from Project Blue Light, a nationwide recognition of police officers killed in the line of duty and a show of law enforcement officers in general.
The practice, and Project Blue Light, date to 1988 when Philadelphia resident Dolly Craig wrote a letter to Concerns of Police Survivors, or C.O.P.S. declaring her intention to place two blue candles in her living room window in honor of her son-in-law, Daniel Gleason, a Philadelphia officer killed in the line of duty in 1986.
The practice of displaying a blue light, primarily a blue porch light, has since spread throughout the country.
“We hope by this time next year COVID-19 will be behind us and we can have a big city event for National Night Out 2021,” Severance said. “Because I think it’s important to Cleburne and I know it’s something a lot of residents look forward to each year.
“We’ve always had several apartment complexes take part in it among other city celebrations. The possible silver lining about the way we’re approaching it this year is that National Night Out was designed to encourage individual block parties and small celebrations throughout the city in order for people to not only visit with police officers but also get to know their neighbors. Maybe this will help encourage more of that this year.”
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King said his deputies, in between responding to calls, will likely be out visiting with residents too.
“We had a big event last year for National Night Out,” King said. “But, because of the COVID-19 situation and everything involved with that, we decided to opt out of having an event this year. Our hope is to be back with a bigger, better event next year.”