National Night Out, an opportunity to bring community members together with one another as well as with law enforcement, was celebrated in Douglas County this year with 23 neighborhood parties, all but one of which were in Highlands Ranch.
“When you know your neighbor, you are much more apt to look out for them,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Hanavan, praising the Aug. 6 event. “National Night Out is all about bringing people together. When a community works together, we can do anything together, we can solve crime.”
Taking the time to get to know your neighbors, Hanavan said, not only makes a neighborhood stronger, but it also helps people realize when something may look suspicious or someone has left themselves vulnerable to potential crime.
“The number of calls we get for open garages getting broken into, those types of crimes can really be prevented,” Hanavan said. “It’s real easy to pick up the phone and give your neighbor a call and remind them that they left their door open. But it’s easier when you know them first.”
And while a major emphasis of National Night Out focuses on bringing people together and starting neighborhood watch organizations, it is also a treat for the officers who participate, Hanavan said.
“For us, we aren’t taking calls, we are just being a part of the community,” he said. “You get to go and mingle with the people that you serve and get to know them in a different light. ... It’s a great opportunity to just meet these folks, without the urgency, the emotion, of the majority of calls we respond to.”
Officers representing the sheriff’s office’s K-9 unit, SWAT team, bomb squad and explorer team, accompanied by Highlands Ranch Metro District park rangers and community safety volunteers, spent about 30 to 40 minutes each at about four to five different parties over the night, presenting more than 700 kids with bags containing coloring books on safety, sheriff’s stickers and more, while educating and thanking neighbors.
A car featuring Undersheriff Tony Spurlock and District Attorney George Brauchler also made the rounds, as the two officials answered questions on crime trends and made small talk, joking about doughnuts, the weather and the Denver Broncos.
For Highlands Ranch resident Jill Thomas, it was the fourth year her family hosted a National Night Out event, but a visit from a K-9 officer still drew an excited response.
“Right after we moved in, we had some cars broken into, and my husband decided he wanted to put together a neighborhood watch,” she said. “We made fliers, put them on everyone’s door, the sheriff came out, and what started as six houses in each direction is now up to 30 houses.”
Thomas said the benefits have been great, and that working together, her watch program has prevented a few crimes. By bringing everyone closer, she said, people also watch each other’s pets and look after one another’s houses when they are away.
Anyone interested in starting a neighborhood watch can contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office community resource unit at 303-660-7544.