National Night Out, "America's Night Out Against Crime", will be observed across the New Orleans metro tonight.
Hundreds of events, from small front porch vigils to large festival-like block parties, are planned. But no matter how big or how small, officials say the purpose of each gathering is to get to know your neighbors and the law enforcement officers who serve you - and to send a message to criminals that crime will not be tolerated in the community.
"I think it's an opportunity for people to get to know one another. It's kind of a step back in time, when we knew who lived five doors down from us, how many kids there were, what the parents did for a living, things of that nature," says Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.
"This is an opportunity to come out and just make sure we send a clear message to any would-be criminal that it will not be tolerated, not by the citizenry nor by law enforcement," says St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain.
Law enforcement officials say they plan to attend as many block parties as they can in their communities.
NOPD Sgt. L.J. Smith, commander of the crime prevention unit, says close to 300 National Night Out events are scheduled tonight across the city. He says officers, including Superintendent Ronal Serpas, will be visiting some of them, including the kickoff party.
"He's (Serpas) gonna be at the kickoff party which is at 7300 Crowder Blvd. at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church. He'll be there, along with the mayor and some other city officials and leaders," Smith said.
The Crimestoppers block party will be held at the Bonnabel Boat Launch in Metairie starting at 5pm. Jefferson Parish leaders and law enforcement officials will be there, along with WRNO's John Osterlind broadcasting live, with giveaways provided by sister station Voodoo 104.
The sheriff's office will have its vehicles and equipment on display. Food and refreshments will be available, and the event is free and open to the public.