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'Night Out' encourages crime prevention

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Although crime in East Longmeadow is minimal, according to Chief of Police Doug Mellis, it is important to give the citizens of the town a fun and safe night out with nothing to worry about.

That's what the National Night Out is for.

Started in 1983, National Night Out is a unique crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and towns and cities around the world. This year, the night out will take place in East Longmeadow on Aug. 7, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the high school football field.

Mellis hopes there will be a larger turn out this year than there was last year. "It was about 100 degrees, one of the hottest days of the year last time," he said. He wants the weather to cooperate so that more of the townspeople can enjoy a night of free food, entertainment and education.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug 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 that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

One of the other purposes of National Night Out is to demonstrate the different types of public safety equipment that is used in each town. The fire department will be displaying a ladder truck and local environmental police will be showing some of the boats they use.

This is the second annual Night Out coordinated by Officer Joe Barone. He and Mellis are both excited by a big addition to this year's event: the presence of a helicopter.

"The fire department has done some training with a helicopter in case air rescue is ever needed, and we wanted to show residents the kind of equipment we had available to ensure their safety," Mellis stated.

Police officers will also offer answer questions so that the people they serve and protect can find out what happens in certain situations.

"This is an oppo-rtunity to provide a safe night for our residents and for them to view what we do to provide a seamless response," Mellis said.

Snack foods and drinks donated by Stop and Shop will be available free of charge, as will sundae cups donated by Friendly's. A bounce house for younger children is also included in the evening.

"We're looking for people to come out and enjoy themselves," Mellis said. The night is also open to all local churches and organizations so that the community can build up a network of groups, Mellis added.

Last year, over 10,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide participated in National Night Out, according to the organization's Web site ( In all, over 34 million people went out for a night out in 2006.

Mellis invites all residents of East Longmeadow to come out and take part in a nice, quiet night.