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National Night Out events set for next week

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

Communities throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley are finishing preparations for National Night Out crime-fighting activities scheduled for next week.

Front Royal, Winchester, Woodstock, New Market and Strasburg are planning their own events, along with the Sheriff's Office in Frederick County. The Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office will also be contributing personnel and equipment to each town in Shenandoah County participating in National Night Out.

The events in each community are scheduled for the evening hours of Aug. 7, except in Frederick County where the Sheriff's Office will be holding National Night Out activities on Tuesday beginning at 4 p.m. at the Rutherford Crossing shopping center at the intersection of I-81 and U.S. 11.

National Night Out is a nationwide project with the goals of educating the public on crime prevention; creating support for local anti-crime programs; building tighter knit neighborhoods and improving police-community cooperation; and letting criminals know that community residents are organized and ready to fight back against them.

Typical national night out events include outside lights and front porch vigils and cookouts, parades, festivals, safety fairs and youth events.

Janice Hart, the Front Royal Police Department's community relations specialist, said this year's activities in Front Royal will include many of same activities found in other communities.

Target department stores, a major national sponsor of National Night Out throughout the United States, will be conducting bicycle safety lessons and raffling off a bicycle, Hart said.

Other scheduled events in Front Royal include vendors educating the public on a variety of topics. One vendor, for example, will be offering information about the dangers of huffing Freon, a chemical compound found in air conditioners and refrigerators.

"It is a festival event in which all vendors are there free of charge and the only restriction they have is to bring some crime prevention or public safety issue into their booth," Hart said. "Even food vendors will be talking about food safety."

The Front Royal event is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the gazebo at the intersection of Chester and Main streets.

Sgt. Frank Myrtle of the Winchester Police Department said Winchester's National Night out will feature free food and drinks throughout the city at the following locations: Highland Memorial Presbyterian Baptist Church, 446 Highland Ave.; Woodland Avenue Neighborhood Watch Group, 1032 Woodland Ave.; Montague Avenue Methodist Church, 102 Montague Ave.; Willow Lawn Community Center, 1824 Tilghman Lane; and Target, 2340 Legge Blvd.

Sgt. Mitchell Vernazza of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office said Woodstock will be holding its first National Night Out on Saturday, joining New Market and Strasburg. The events in each town will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Vernazza said National Night Out goals are especially important in big cities but the small communities have already succeeded in forging the kinds of ties among citizens and police encouraged by the national program.

"We have a lower crime rate," Vernazza said. "The crime rate in some of our towns is not as aggressive as in some big cities."

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