By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND – Chief of Police Carol Lawlor announced. at a town board meeting this month, that the police department was awarded a grant from Target for its annual National Night Out program
National Night Out is a nationwide program designed to heighten crime and drug-prevention awareness, generate support for local anticrime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
The first National Night Out took place in 1984, and 23 states participated; by 2011, all 50 states had gotten involved.
Guilderland has been holding its National Night Out, in Tawasentha Park, for the past four years.
Last August, according to Lawlor, more than 4,000 people turned out for the event.
The program, at its inception, featured “lights on” – every house in the neighborhood lit up – and front porch vigils, but has since expanded to include safety fairs, demonstrations, cookouts, and festivals.
The free event in Guilderland required months of preparation by a coordinating committee, spearheaded by Sergeant Roger Ginder, chairman of the Community Services Unit.
“We spend no town money on National Night Out, it is all funded by donations,” said Lawlor this week. The committee worked to get those donations, arrange vendors, coordinate activities, and get exhibitors.
In addition to safety demonstrations by local emergency responders, on topics such as seatbelts, drunk driving, and violence, there were family-friendly activities, including pony rides, a puppet show, a bounce house, free ice cream, and a concert by the Refrigerators.
“It’s about bringing communities together to be safer, but we like to keep it fun,” said Lawlor.
The Target Corporation sends representatives to all National Night Out events, and awards grants to towns with events that best embody the message of the program. The grant is called the 2012 National Night Out Award for Excellence.
This year, it gave $1,000 to the Guilderland Police Department for the event it held on Aug. 7. The money, said Lawlor, will be used for next year’s National Night Out.
“We were thrilled that we won,” she said. “We put a lot of effort into the event and we deserve it; that money will come in very handy.”