A united front: Frisco celebrates National Night Out
Frisco firefighters with children from the Wynngate neighborhood National Night Out block party. Photo courtesy of Debra Thomas.
National Night Out is an event designed to raise crime awareness in United States and Canadian cities. For Frisco residents and law enforcement personnel, however, it's much more than that.
Frisco Chief of Police Todd Renshaw has overseen each of the city's annual National Night Out events since becoming police chief in 1994. The events, Renshaw said, have become a great way for officers and neighbors to build strong relationships.
"The bottom line is it's a good way to get people in the community out to know one another," Renshaw said. "When people know their neighbors, they look out for their neighbors. The best friend law enforcement has is a nosey neighbor."
On Tuesday, Aug. 8, Frisco police and firefighters visited block parties around the city celebrating National Night Out. At the parties, law enforcement personnel interacted with partygoers and showed off some of the equipment and vehicles they use to protect residents.
Some of the locations Frisco police officers and firefighters visited have hosted block parties each of the 19 years the city's held a National Night Out event, and many neighborhoods developed in more recent years have made their block parties annual events as well.
Renshaw said law enforcement personnel commonly get information from Frisco residents that help prevent crime and make the city a safer place to live.
"We can drive through a neighborhood and something may not look out of the ordinary to us, but people in the community know when something's out of the ordinary," he said. "Sometimes they simply have a better feeling about what's going on than we do."
When the city first started celebrating National Night Out in 1994, Renshaw said he rarely had time to spend more than five minutes at block parties. With Frisco seeing explosive growth, however, the police and fire departments have added enough staff that officers and firefighters can spend much more time with residents.
National Night Out participants typically don't discuss complaints at the block parties; instead, partygoers are more likely to praise officers and firefighters for their service, Renshaw said.
"I first started doing this in another city I worked for, and my fear was we were going to get a lot of complaints," Renshaw said. "Very seldom do we actually get a complaint, though. Residents will thank us for coming and [serving the city] -- there's a lot more accolades than there are complaints."
John Lebeck, a resident of Frisco Lakes, agreed with Chief Renshaw's assessment.
"I think mainly it's a great opportunity for them to get to know us and us to get to know them," Lebeck said. "It's a relationship-building event -- we have to have the police and fire department to survive as a community, and getting to know them is fantastic."
While the adults at block parties may be more than happy to thank officers for their duty, children just want to see two things: handcuffs and guns.
"Those are always the first questions I get: 'Is that your gun? Where are your handcuffs? Can you take them out?'" Renshaw said. "I tell them I only take out my handcuffs when I have to use them; when I jokingly ask if they want to be handcuffed they always say no."
In addition to Tuesday's event, this year Frisco will host a second National Night Out event in October. The police and fire departments decided to add the second date in response to concerns regarding West Nile virus.
"We always want to leave it up to our block party organizers, and we received some concerns about West Nile virus," Renshaw explained. "We'll have discussions with them after both events to decide if they want to host it annually in October or if they want to keep it in August."
The concerns weren't unwarranted: while officers were preparing to visit National Night Out block parties, it was announced a third Frisco resident had tested positive for West Nile virus.
Despite the concerns, however, 43 of the 65 block parties registered for this year's event decided to proceed as scheduled Tuesday. A date for this year's October event has yet to be finalized, but Renshaw said Oct. 2 or Oct. 6 are the two most likely choices.
For one Frisco resident, mosquitoes wouldn't deter her from getting to thank law enforcement personnel for their service.
"We've lived all over North Texas, and Frisco's the best place we've ever lived," Lou Anne Dagley said. "All the services the city provides [are great] -- from schools to the fire department to the police department. Frisco's got the best of everything."