Jefferson City residents celebrate National Night Out

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JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City residents gathered Thursday to commemorate the 32nd National Night Out. 

It's an annual event that joins law enforcement and citizens in fellowship over food and discussion of neighborhood issues. Residents hold multiple "watch parties" in different locations around the city and invite neighbors and officers to mingle.

Jefferson City police officer Todd Bickel said, "Community policing is very important. The emphasis on it is an investment. If the citizens are invested in their community they are going to take pride in it, and they're going to address problems and bring these problems to our attention, to where, as police officers, we can then look into them and try to come up with solutions."

Nationally, the event occurs in August, but Jefferson City residents feel that holding it in early September heightens community participation because the weather conditions are not as humid. 

"It's always refreshing to see events like this," said Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry. He said it makes him feel like a return to the days when neighborhoods were more close knit.

Even if residents choose not to attend watch parties, they are still encouraged to keep their front porch lights on all night in support of the movement. 

The National Sheriff's Association started National Night Out in the 1970s. Initially, the program was designed to strengthen the relationship between community and law enforcement while improving lines of communication between the two. Since its inception, the program has evolved to further community support for existing law enforcement programs as well.

The National Association of Town Watch now puts on the event. It is a conglomerate of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups and various other social groups and organizations.