On its 25th birthday, National Night Out has changed but is still relevant. In Alexandria, its as popular as ever.
It started in the 1980s and, those first few years, people were simply asked to turn on their porch lights and take back the streets to fight rising crime, said Police Chief David Baker. Now, at least in Alexandria, where crime has steadily declined, it has become much more a community building effort that brings neighborhoods together for one night in August.
Baker became the chief last year when Charles Samarra retired. While he has participated in National Night Out in the city for many years, this was his first as chief. He strolled through a group of children and adults at the Warwick Village/Del Ray celebration, greeting people and talking about what has happened since assuming his new role.
Nothing about being the chief has really surprised me because I was used to being second-in-command. The real difference is a personal change. I have always felt a real sense of personal responsibility for the department and the citizens of Alexandria but I have an even greater sense of responsibility nowThis is mine now.
Also, the complexity of the many issues we face is a challenge but one that I welcome. I love what I am doing and really enjoy working with the dedicated people in the department, Baker said.
One of Bakers initiatives this year is Cops On The Dot. We rolled it out in June and, though it is early yet, things are going well, Baker said.
The program allows resources to be moved to where crime is occurring. We have divided the city into three sectors by workload. A captain is in charge of each sector and has been given the resources to respond to whatever is occurring in that sector. That includes crime, of course, but also includes other types of emergencies such as environmental or other things that could involve other city departments. We have trained all of our officers how to use our crime analysis data and to respond to changes in criminal activity as they occur, he said.
Last year, violent crime in the City was at its lowest in 40 years. This year, so far, it is down once again by three percent. I simply want to see crime continue to decline and to have the opportunity to be out in the community listening to people. No matter how many new things we implement and how much technology we employ, if we arent responding to the needs of the people we serve, it wont matter at all, Baker said.