Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its original publication.
UTD hosted a cookout for National Night Out, providing free food, entertainment and safety information for the hundreds of students who attended.
NNO is a national event held on Oct. 3 to increase awareness about law enforcement and its role in the community in order to deter crime. Communities hold block parties to enhance relationships between neighbors, the community and law enforcement workers. NNO has been active in the United States for 36 years, and is an annual occurrence at UTD as well.
“(National Night Out) is a community program to enhance relationships between police department, firefighters and the community in which we serve,” said David Spigelmyer, UTD Police Department’s crime prevention officer. “To bring us all together to have block parties, get to know each other, get to know our neighbors, because when we know our neighbors, that’s a great crime deterrent.”
UTD PD provides different crime-prevention measures, including self-defense classes and speakers at student orientations. Among these events is the NNO block party, which has grown to become the largest crime-prevention event at UTD, Spigelmyer said.
“When I started this program six years ago, no one knew about National Night Out. Now I have kids coming up, asking, ‘When is National Night Out?’ which is so cool,” he said.
Since Spigelmyer has been in charge of the cookout, he has invited many student talents over the years to perform at the event, and this year, the main event was the UTD cheerleaders who performed a dance routine. Spigelmyer said these performances are a way to showcase the talents of UTD students outside of the classroom.
In addition to the entertainment and free food, the focus of the cookout was on crime prevention and the role of the police force in the community. On and off-campus organizations set up booths to provide students with information about how they can remain safe.
Trevor Gawronski, a biology freshman, was one of the students who attended the block party.
“This event is important because it is hosted by the police and it’s basically a measure for prevention, getting everybody out and standing against crime,” he said.
UTD PD had members present at the event as well, including the Chief himself, to interact and socialize with the students, and to help them know that the officers are here for the students, not at their expense. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for the students to get to know the officers who work for UTD PD, because they will see that the officers are just people doing their jobs, not people who are out to hurt the students, said UTD Police Chief Larry Zacharias.
“Tonight is just another night of us building the partnership between the police department and the students,” Zacharias said, “If (the students) meet one officer they don’t know and they have a problem, they go, ‘I’m going to call because I trust these guys,’ so that’s what it’s all about.”