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Neighbors Invited To Join In Countywide `Night Out'

A group of heroes band together to face an awesome menace none of them could defeat on their own...the heroes next door.

POLK COUNTY -- A group of heroes band together to face an awesome menace none of them could defeat on their own.

It's not the Avengers or the Justice League of America.

These are the heroes next door.

They're the neighbors in Dallas, Monmouth and Independence who are getting together for the National Night Out Tuesday, Aug. 7, to tell evildoers everywhere to get out of town.

National Night Out has become a community tradition in Monmouth-Independence. Every August, a portion of the Central Plaza parking lot is devoted to the cause.

A variety of activities are planned, all with the same basic goal -- to educate people about crime prevention and inspire neighbors to look out for one another.

Dallas residents have decided to follow suit. Their effort isn't tied officially with National Night Out, which is actually part of the National Association of Town Watch.

The Dallas effort is being called Neighbors Night Out. However, the idea is still the same, said Judy Bowen of the Polk County Department of Human Services.

"It's a way of building community and getting neighbors out to meet neighbors," she said.

Members of Dallas Action Together have arranged for free swimming at the Dallas Aquatic Center from 7 to 10 p.m. during the event.

Information booths and other activities will be held at the new ball fields next to the aquatic center. McGruff the crime dog will be there along with Polk County Master Gardeners.

Independence, in particular, has long had a strong Neighborhood Watch program, Bowen said. She hopes the Neighbors Night Out will help strengthen the program in Dallas.

"We've got the team captains. I think this may bolster it enough to really get it going." she said.

Bowen said this could be the start of something big. "This will be a first. We'll start and go from there."

Sgt. Bob Mason said National Night Out activities in Independence take a lot of effort, especially coming on the heels of Western Days.

Nonetheless, volunteers are putting together a lot of activities for the Central Plaza parking lot.

Beginning at 5 p.m., there will be booths featuring youth-related agencies from Central Youth Sports to the YMCA.

"Operation ID" will offer parents a chance to get their kids photographed and fingerprinted. Such information is vital to finding missing children.

Live music is also being planned.

There was going to be a basketball tournament, but as of presstime, Mason said it would likely be canceled for lack of sign ups (the deadline for signing up was July 24).

Mason is hoping the Oregon Air National Guard comes through with one of its Blackhawk helicopters for the event.

This the 18th year the National Association of Town Watch has sponsored National Night Out. More than 9,500 communities in all 50 states are participating -- a total of more than 32 million people.

"NNO has proven to be an effective, inexpensive and enjoyable program to promote neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships in our fight for a safer nation," said Matt Peskin of the National Association of Town Watch.

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