National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event held the first Tuesday of August. (Texas has the option to use the alternate date of Tuesday, October 4, 2011, to avoid hot weather.)
The event has been held annually since 1984 and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in the United States and Canada.
The event is meant to increase awareness about police programs in communities, such as drug prevention, town watch/Neighborhood Watch, and other anti-crime efforts.
Initially communities held lights-on vigils. Now, many communities hold block parties, festivals, and other events to help bring neighbors together.
National Night Out, ‘America’s Night Out Against Crime,’ was introduced by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) in 1984. The program was the brainchild of NATW Executive Director Matt A. Peskin.
In an effort to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts, Peskin felt that a high-profile, high-impact type of crime prevention event was needed nationally. At that time, he noted that in a typical ‘crime watch community’, only 5 to 7% of the residents were participating actively. Due to the growth and success of these programs, he felt this percentage was too low. Subsequently, he proposed a national program which would be coordinated by local crime prevention agencies and organizations - but that would involve entire communities at one time. The first National Night Out was introduced early in 1984 - with the event culminating on the first Tuesday in August. That first year, 400 communities in 23 states participated in National Night Out. Nationwide, 2.5 million Americans took part in 1984. The seed had been planted, and in subsequent years, participation has grown steadily. The 27th Annual National Night Out last August involved 37.0 million people in 15,110 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide