by William Park

Knowing your neighbor is vital to community safety.

On August 6, many Northside residents will have the opportunity to interact with their neighbors during National Night Out.

Many Northside neighborhoods – including Fineview, the Central Northside, East Allegheny and Historic Deutschtown – will take part in the event in which neighborhoods raise crime-prevention awareness and build community camaraderie.

As Northside Public Safety President David Stacy said, the average neighbor can have a significant impact on public safety.

Laws restrict what policemen can do, Stacy explained. For example, citizens can observe a house, but policemen must have orders to do so.

“I have the most respect for the police department and the service, [but] citizens can basically do more than what an officer can do nowadays,” said Stacy.

Throughout the Northside, neighborhoods will host different community events.

In the Central Northside, Arch Street will be closed between Alpine Avenue and Sampsonia Way. Residents, who are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, can enjoy grilled hot dogs and drinks from 6-8 p.m.

Other activities include a YMCA-sponsored obstacle course for children and a Mattress Factory craft table. A fire engine and police cars will also be on site for residents to tour.

Pittsburgh police will also actively participate in National Night Out.

Chiefs, commanders and officers will be present to speak with residents in a relaxed atmosphere, and residents will have the opportunity to walk through a SWAT vehicle and meet a police dog.

“[National Night Out] is a festive and relaxed way to bring the people of the community together with each other, the Police and other Public Safety units,” said Diane Richard, the Pittsburgh police spokeswoman via email.

In Fineview, residents are being asked to turn on their porch lights and talk with their neighbors. Although this does not directly improve neighborhood safety, it builds positive relationships that have a strong effect on preventing crime.

“If you know who lives in the larger area, you know what activities might not be lawful,” said June Lloyd, president of the Fineview Citizens Council.

“National Night Out” also raises awareness and encourages participation in neighborhood watch programs like Fineview’s “Stroll n’Patrol”.

Every Thursday, Fineview volunteers walk through the neighborhood and check whether fire hydrants and street signs are exposed and watch for other safety hazards.

A sidewalk information fair will be held on East Ohio Street. Public safety and social service organizations will set up tables where they will discuss ways to improve safety.

“National Night Out” is a national event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. This year’s theme is “A Beautiful Night in the Neighborhood.”