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Going away party for crime

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Turn on your outside lights, lock the door and join your friends and neighbors in Elmwood Park (500 13th Ave. W.). Parking and admission are free.

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Sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) and Red River Valley law enforcement agencies, this annual event is in its 11th year in West Fargo and offers an opportunity for members of the public to "get out there" and meet members of the law enforcement community, WFPD Office Manager Chris Sandeen said.

It will take place Aug. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m.

"It's a neighborhood and a community connection," Officer Terry Styf, who worked with a community group to begin West Fargo's National Night Out in 1995.

Food, face painting, free cotton candy, caricatures, helicopter tours, free ice cream floats, and more than 40 community service booths on display are some of the scheduled non-law enforcement participants and activities that will be a part of the night.

As they stand in solidarity with law enforcement agents against crime, attendees to the National Night Out will join citizens in more than 9,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. In all, more than 30 million people each year participate in "America's Night Out Against Crime."

Sytf thinks the event is important for both citizens to have fun in the community and law enforcement officials to meet them.

"I think it's good for Officers to meet people. A lot of times they only interact with a microcosm of the society," he said.

There will be an area for people to speak with members of the bomb squad and of the Red River Valley S.W.A.T., Styf said. Styf is a S.W.A.T. negotiator. People will also be able to look inside a Police car. Choice Print ID Kits will be free of charge, and there will be more surprises, promised Chief Arland Rasmussen.

Styf said he's expecting a good crowd for this year's event, what with the completion of road construction on 13th Avenue, which blocked the Elmwood Park entrance last year, and the growth of West Fargo to the south.

"A lot of the people who live south of the interstate have been there for a long time, but they maybe aren't familiar with this event. We want to reach out and invite these people," he said.

Generally speaking, there are about 5,000 attendees, but in the late 90s there were close to 10,000, Styf said.

A flag raising ceremony presented by the West Fargo AMVET Post and West Fargo VFW Color Guard and 119th Civil Air Patrol Cadet Squadron is scheduled for 6 p.m.

From 6 to 8 p.m. there will be clowns sponsored by the Silver Dollar Bar, a show by Halftime by Sheri at 6:15 p.m., dog obedience demonstrated by Doug Spieker at 6:30, Harley Davidson motorcycle rides beginning at 6:30 and West Fargo Tae Kwon Do demonstrations beginning at 6:45. The Packatahnas will kick off the 7 o'clock hour followed by a radio-controlled miniature aircraft show by the Red River Show Team at 7:15 and fire demonstrations by the West Fargo Fire Department at 7:45 p.m.

Local sponsors include the West Fargo Police Department, Fargo Police Department, Moorhead Police Department, Dilworth Police Department, Glyndon Police Department, Cass County Sheriff's Department, Clay County Sheriff's Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol and Minnesota State Patrol.

They join the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and promotion of organized, law enforcement-affiliated crime and drug prevention programs. Since 1981, NATW's network of information, assistance and affiliation has been serving hundreds of member groups from throughout North America.

In 2002 the NATW selected the Red River Valley National Night Out Coalition (RRVNNOC) as a National Award Winner for its participation in the 19th Annual National Night Out crime, drug and violence prevention program. Local sponsors that year were West Fargo, Fargo, Moorhead and Dilworth, as well as Cass and Clay Counties. The events included community picnics, neighborhood block parties, a parade, and a law enforcement tug-of-war.

In order to compete for the award, the RRVNNOC had to submit an award package with information on National Night Out activities and a videotape of some of those activities. They competed against communities like Stockton, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; Dayton, Ohio, and many other communities with a population of 100,000 to 299,999.

This was a first effort for the RRVNNOC and even though the competition was fierce, as many of these communities had competed for several years, the Red River Valley National Night Out Coalition was awarded 9th place out of 30. The State of Minnesota won first place in the State Category, finally beating out Texas, which has won numerous years.

For more information, contact the West Fargo Police Department at 433-5500.

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