Residents of Iowa neighborhoods and towns will be out having barbecues and block parties tonight (Tuesday) despite the steamy weather, getting acquainted as they participate in the 16th national observance of “National Night Out.” Des Moines police Sergeant Todd Dykstra says it’s aimed at heightening awareness of what can be done at the grassroots level to battle crime and drugs. It’s to let folks learn about their own local anti-crime programs, he explains, and generate support. It strengthens community spirit, he says, and improves neighborhood-police cooperation. “Most importantly we want to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back against crime.” Sergeant Dykstra says what your local cops DON’T need is a citizen getting involved when a crime occurs. They ask individuals to be a good witness — get a license plate number, a description of the suspect and location that’ll help them find the person who committed the crime. He says it’s understandable that now and then somebody gets the urge to try and help, and sometimes there’s a happy ending. But he says in some cases a person who’ll try to get involved and restrain a suspect ends up getting hurt — and it’s not worth it. He says communities show support and help their police departments keep the peace by reporting crimes they see or know about.
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