A night to unite against crime in Coon Rapids

More than 80 events had registered with the Coon Rapids Police Department by early this week for the city’s annual Night to Unite celebration Tuesday, Aug. 7.

The police department will be taking registrations for neighborhood gatherings right through the day of Night to Unite, according to Officer Bill Michael, Night to Unite co-coordinator with Kim Reinke, police technician.

But people who want to barricade their street to hold a party can’t wait until the last minute to register because they will need a permit from the city to block off the road, Michael said.

“We expect to have over 100 events,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity to get out and meet your neighbors.”

Neighborhood gatherings usually begin around 5:30 p.m., but it is up to the individual group to set a time that works best for it.

Events will include block parties, cookouts, parades, contests and youth programs.

For example, Coon Rapids’ Element Teen Center hosts an annual Night to Unite event at its Riverwind Recreation Center location at 2701 Northdale Blvd.

Another annual Night to Unite party is at Presbyterian Church of the Master, 789 Northdale Blvd., 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., featuring a picnic, children’s games and other activities.

Those registering a party with the police department receive a goodie bag containing crime tips and other items for the party, according to Michael.

These include T-shirts for participants, Frisbees and information from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office about community emergency preparedness “with the goal of development of community resiliency and getting to know your neighbors.”

In addition, the police department is distributing a flyer about a website, www.nextdoor.com/city, as part of the package, Michael said.

This website is designed to “build community with free private social networks” by getting neighbors talking, promoting local businesses and providing information to residents, according to the flyer.

Police Chief Brad Wise wants to get the word out about the website hoping that it takes off in Coon Rapids, Michael said.

Police officers and firefighters will be visiting parties that have registered, he said.

The goal of Night to Unite is to help neighbors come together to increase crime prevention awareness and strengthen the partnership the police department has with citizens.

Night to Unite 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.

• Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

According to Michael, Night to Unite has proven to be an effective, inexpensive and enjoyable program to promote neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships in the fight for a safer nation.

This will be the fourth year the program has been known as Nite to Unite in Coon Rapids; its previous incarnation was National Night Out.

The name of the program was changed, but not its purpose, because the police department decided to no longer be involved in the National Night Out event, which was under the auspices of the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization which came under scrutiny for the compensation earned by its executive director.

Night to Unite is sponsored by the Minnesota Crime Prevention Association (MPCA) and AAA of Minnesota/Iowa.

To register and get more information about the Coon Rapids Night to Unite celebration, click on the Night to Unite link on the city of Coon Rapids website at http://www.CoonRapidsMN.gov or call 763-767-6481.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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