People across the United States took to the streets last night to say: "We're not going to take it anymore." It was National Night Out in America.
From inner city Baltimore, around the Beltway suburbs and down to the far southern reaches of Anne Arundel County and beyond, Marylanders took to the streets and turned on their porch lights.
At 7 p.m. in Baltimore -- the moment the good guys vs. the bad guys event kicked off -- police sirens and blue lights ripped through the 400 block of N. Collington Ave.
The eastside neighborhood is not unfamiliar with sirens and blue lights. "This area is busy," said an officer assigned to the neighborhood south of the Northeast Market. "But there's some good people trapped here who are trying to get their neighborhood back."
Said Margaret Baylor, a 60-year-old who remembers the old days of sleeping out in the yard: "You go to sleep out there now, you'll never wake up. It's the drugs and people destroying other people's property. We're just about holding our own."
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who addressed the Collington Avenue crowd, was asked if, in her most candid heart, she really thought that parades and turning on lights could deter drug crime and violence.
"It's a symbol that I believe in," Mrs. Clarke said. "It shows that there's more of us than there are troublemakers. It helps the good people go on for another day."
In Anne Arundel, police applauded the people they are paid to protect. "The police aren't having a parade, the community is having a parade," said Capt. Richard D. Smith, a 23-year-old veteran.
Captain Smith and his officers took part in the march through Londontown, a community south of Annapolis that the captain described as "a regular middle-class community . . . with regular crime -- from auto thefts to breaking and entering and a few assaults."
"This clearly demonstrates that crime is not a police problem, it's everybody's problem," the captain said. "Until people show the criminal element that they're concerned, we're going to continue to have to fight to take our streets back. The average citizen is fed up."
In Howard County, residents organized more than 30 block parties. Residents met in backyards, mingling with police officers and County Council members and taking turns having their picture taken with McGruff, the detective dog that encourages the good guys to "Help take a bite out of crime."
Said Lt. G. Wayne Livesay, who oversees the county's Crime Prevention Unit: "It's a good way for residents to get to know each other. It brings everybody together for a good cause."
In Carroll County, organizers are hoping to increase participation in its Neighborhood Watch Program, which currently has more than 100 communities. For vacationers, the program can mean a neighbor watches over their property when they are away.
Those interested in participating should contact local police or the Maryland State Police Crime Prevention Unit at 876-8956.
A block party at Baltimore County's Circle Terrace apartment complex in Lansdowne featured the Heat, a band of cops rocking out in their uniforms. Police called the Circle Terrace neighborhood a success story, with crime down sharply because of citizen cooperation with police: staying alert and calling in suspicious activity to police.
Formerly known as the Lake in the Woods apartments, the development was crime-ridden and in disrepair before new owners took it over in late 1991. The 303-unit complex has since undergone $8 million worth of renovations.
In Harford County, several thousand people were expected to participate in National Night Out with teams of sheriff's deputies visiting different neighborhoods to boost morale and pass on anti-crime tips.