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National Night Out promotes police-community ties, neighbor camaraderie

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With music in the background, neighbors from Brainerd’s north side gathered in Gregory Park and dined under a canopy of trees during the 2018 National Night Out. The meal and festivities were sponsored by the Brainerd Northside Neighborhood Association. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

National Night Out promises to be a night to remember with free, fun, family-friendly activities that aim to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live, according to officials.

The 16th annual Northside Neighborhood Block Party will be 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Gregory Park. Baxter will have its National Night Out-related Night to Unite 5-7 p.m. as well, hosted by the Baxter Lions Club and the Baxter Police Department at Oscar Kristofferson Park.

“For us, it’s a designated opportunity each year where we get a chance to connect with our local neighborhoods and people of our town, so it’s really a chance for us to bolster relationships that we have and hopefully build some new ones,” Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston said.

The Brainerd Northside Neighborhood Association and the police department are hosting the event that includes live music, a picnic dinner and children’s games. More than a hundred were interested and about 30 were going as of Friday, according to the association’s Facebook page.

“We also usually try to incorporate our McGruff the Crime Dog there because he’s a big hit with kids. It helps them connect with police officers,” McQuiston said of the life-sized, costumed dog character used to increase crime awareness and personal safety in the United States.

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Tuesday’s event also includes participation by the Brainerd Fire Department, is sponsored by Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center and is supported by Target in Baxter.

“If people from other neighborhoods came and saw what they did in Gregory Park and then could take that back and start something like that in their own neighborhoods, I think we would encourage them to go,” he said of the event intended for Brainerd’s northside neighbors.

National Night Out

Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide the first Tuesday in August, according to the observance’s website, which advocates familiarity with neighbors to lessen criminal activity.

“We have limited staff and limited resources, so we heavily rely on the public to report stuff to us and give us the opportunity to look into it, whether they think it’s serious or not serious … and we’ll do what we can with the information, but they’re encouraged to call,” McQuiston said.

Neighborhoods across the nation that observe National Night Out often host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more.

“It’s just all too often we will have people come up to us and start off by saying, ‘I should have called you the other day,’” McQuiston said of community involvement in law enforcement. “If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that, I’d be a very wealthy person.”

National Night Out’s goals include celebrating neighborhood unity and safety; police-community partnership; and crime, drug and violence prevention, according to officials.

“If people don’t have trust and confidence in us, it really just limits our ability to be effective. And when people don’t report things -- believe it or not -- criminals kind of start to become aware of that, and they become more active or embedded in that area,” McQuiston said.

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Marsh Run Townhomes event

Marsh Run Townhomes of Premier Real Estate will also host a National Night Out event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the townhomes at 623 28th St. SE in Brainerd, second driveway by the area playground.

For that event, people are invited to bring a lawn chair or a blanket to enjoy the music, food, fun and carnival games. Brats, hot dogs, chips, pop and water will be provided, and the Brainerd police and fire departments will also be in attendance as well as McGruff the Crime Dog.

Visitors can stop by the registration table at the 28th Street event, where the Brainerd Warriors Cheer Team will be volunteering, to get a game ticket, sign up for door prizes and receive a free meal ticket. Call Carissa Ulness, property manager, at 218-821-8831 for more information.

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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