The Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority (PMHA) will be hosting another National Night Out event in Scioto County on Aug. 6 at all of their locations. This year is promised to be the biggest yet, with not only the local operation growing annually, but the national campaign celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
National Night Out, a yearlong community building campaign, is designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Along with the traditional outside lights and front porch vigils, most cities and towns celebrate National Night Out with a variety of special citywide and neighborhood events, such as block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from local officials and law enforcement, safety fairs, and youth events.
“One of the reasons we celebrate, if you know the history of Scioto County, is that we’ve come a long way. The idea of the celebration is to bring neighborhoods and the police force together, trying to combat criminal activity in their neighborhoods, mostly drugs,” Executive Director, Peggy Rice said. “We like to think we’ve made quite a bit of strides in Scioto County with the drug problem. It has had its hooks into our community for so long.”
Portsmouth Police Department, New Boston Police Department, Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington and Porter Township Volunteer Firefighters will all be on different sites to celebrate with the community, give rides in cruisers and also provide fingerprinting of the children.
Between the volunteers, servicemen and community members, 1,000 participants showed up at last year’s celebration. That number was unseen to the PMHA before and they hope to only keep their change in velocity positive.
“We have a lot of success in Scioto County that we need to take pride in. I think sometimes we get so down on ourselves that we forget we have a lot of people here that are willing to do a lot of things for others. Not only that, but I think you cannot have enough cooperation between community members and law enforcement; that will make or break any community, having a relationship there. The Night Out is great, because it takes the emergency out of the situation and the police and firemen get to talk to the kids and see them for who they are,” Rice said.
Getting outside the confines of a traditional workplace helps as well.
“I think it is also about letting the residents in our locations see us out of the work environment,” Director of Housing Management, Helen Adams said. “We become more human to them and more available.”
Adams claims that last year was her favorite celebration and the best they’ve held. She attributes it to more involvement.
“I do think that there was more participation last year and it helped a lot. Last year was the first year that we gave out school supplies and backpacks and it went over wonderfully,” Adams said. “We had a bit more community involvement than we’ve had in the past years. This is the first year that people from last year started talking about it in advance and it has made a big difference and has certainly made us feel good.”
Adams said they like to start the celebration right after many are coming home from the 5 p.m. work schedule and will go until the celebration has run its course. The night will be made fun with inflatables, community information and fliers, screenings from the hospital, KDMC Ohio will be giving away school supplies, Salvation Army will be giving out information and popsicles, band and DJs will be on-site, dunk tanks at Farley Square, food and more.
Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority owns and maintains 886 rental units and houses around 1,700 citizens located in Portsmouth, New Boston, Sciotoville, West Portsmouth and Wheelersburg consisting of houses, apartments, townhomes and high-rise buildings. The complexes include Wayne Hills, Farley Square, Alexandria House, Hudson House, Cliffside House, Miller Manor, Lett Terrace and Scattered Sites.
“Anytime there is a gathering, even if it is just hotdogs and chips, you get a chance to talk to your neighbors. It becomes more relaxed and people have a tendency to open up and cut loose. You don’t have to be a part of PMHA to celebrate. It is about the idea of spreading awareness,” Rice said.