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Our View: Get out for 'Night Out;' stand against crime

It's here, the one night a year set aside to turn on porch lights and to wander outside to spend time with and to get to know our neighbors so we can better watch out for each other, so we can build community, and so we can send a clear message: We won't stand for criminal activity and unlawful behavior. Not in our neighborhoods. Not in our cities, townships, or anywhere.

This year's annual National Night Out arrives with its usual goals of building stronger, safer places.

But there also are renewed tensions in Minnesota over police-citizen relationships, so key in ensuring public safety.

Last week, body-camera videos were released of a Minneapolis Police shooting following a foot chase. Officers were called over shots fired in a residential neighborhood. The suspect was killed after running and then turning toward officers, gun in hand. The Hennepin County attorney declined to charge the officers because the suspect presented a danger to them and to the community. Nonetheless, anger and protests followed, recalling other highly publicized officer-involved shootings in the Twin Cities and around the nation as well as a backlash against police.

National Night Out offers an opportunity for healing and a chance to strengthen critical community-police bonds.

"We want our citizens to get to know us before they need us, and we are committed to investing in building relationship capital with our community," Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said, encouragingly, in response to a request for comment from the News Tribune Opinion page before last summer's National Night Out.

Officers from Duluth and elsewhere are expected to again be front and center at this year's block parties, ice cream socials, and other neighborhood gatherings.

Nearly 70 Neighborhood Night Out events are planned in Duluth Tuesday, according to the city. To find one near you go to duluthmn.gov/national-night-out.

In addition, St. Louis County Sheriff's deputies are planning to join representatives and residents of Cherry, Clinton, and McDavitt townships from 4:30-8 p.m. at Clinton Community Center in Iron. And Cotton Township will be gathering for a second annual National Night Out from 5-7 p.m. at Cotton Community Center, the sheriff's department announced.

A News Tribune editorial made this claim a year ago, but it may be even more true now: Perhaps never before in the 35-year history of National Night Out has there been a greater need for law enforcement to reconnect with its communities in visible and clear shows of unity. The Duluth police, St. Louis County Sheriff's, and other departments are trying. They're out there really trying, and not just Tuesday. All of us can play a role, too, by attending a party near our homes and then by talking — really talking — to our neighbors once we get there.

The events in Duluth and St. Louis County Tuesday are among tens of thousands across the country. An estimated 16,000 communities and 37.8 million people participate, according to the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch, which started National Night Out in 1984.

By standing together, today and every day, we all can build a safer and a more trusting Duluth, Northland, and nation.

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