New Brighton awarded for 2012 National Night Out

Officer Trevor Hamdorf posing with mayor Dave Jacobsen, city council members and staff after presenting the 2012 National Night Out Second Place Award to the council.

New Brighton has been recognized once again by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) for the city’s planning and participation in last summer’s National Night Out (NNO).

The city received the first place state award and the NATW second place national award, which was accepted by city council members at a Feb. 12 meeting.

NNO was introduced as a national event by the NATW in 1984 as a way to “heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts.”

It is a crime prevention campaign with the goal of reducing crime by encouraging neighbors to get to know one another. The idea being that if members of a community know each other they will be more likely to watch out for one another and alert authorities about suspicious activity in the neighborhood.

The community-wide celebrations usually include block parties where neighbors barbecue or hold a potluck, play games and socialize. The block parties are often visited by members of the police and fire departments, civic groups and by local government officials.

Last year over 15,700 communities and an estimated 37.5 million people participated in NNO activities nationally.

New Brighton’s Director of Public Safety Bob Jacobson said locally there were 147 organized parties with over 10,000 residents -- nearly half of the city’s population –- who participated in last year’s NNO.  

Individual parties in New Brighton ranged from small gatherings of a dozen people to over 200. Festivities ranged from small barbecues to puppet shows, live music and even a visit by some birds of prey from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.

This high level of participation prompted the national sponsor of NNO to give the city the top award in Minnesota and the second place award in the nation for cities with populations between 15,000 and 49,000 residents.  

Crime Prevention Officer Trevor Hamdorf has coordinated the city’s NNO celebration for the past two years. He presented the national award plaque to city council members at the Tuesday, Feb. 12 council meeting.

“Number two is really good, but we really want that number one spot again,” Hamdorf told the council.

New Brighton was awarded top place finishes nationally in 2005 and 2009 and second place finishes in 2011 and 2012. Hamdorf would like to see the city recapture the number one spot this year.

“We are always striving to do better, so we’re really going to go after number one this year,” he said.

Hamdorf added that he and other NNO planners have already come up with some good ideas for this year’s event.

Jacobson said the city has placed in the top five nationally for 13 consecutive years.

“This city is phenomenal when it comes to neighborhood involvement and that is key to building a safe community,” he said.

The public safety department submits a report to the NATW every year that lists the city’s turnout for the event and the types of festivities celebrated that evening, among other data.

New Brighton Mayor Dave Jacobsen said the city’s involvement in NNO says a lot about the type of community New Brighton is. He said individual neighborhoods are closely connected to public safety and fire programs and residents tend to look out for each other’s safety.

“A lot of our success with National Night Out and community involvement as a whole can be attributed to Bob Jacobson and the training in his department, as well as a very active group of volunteers that make this such a great community,” the mayor said.

Jacobsen said that New Brighton has great community programs and nearly 300 volunteers in the public safety department alone, which contribute to building a close community.

“Our public safety department has a great handle on this,” Council member Char Samuelson said. “National Night Out is important because it brings in a community type focus that bonds us together and helps to cut down on crime.”

Samuelson remembers the first year New Brighton participated in NNO in the early 1990’s during her first term serving on the council. She said she was able to visit every NNO party in the city.

NNO has grown since then, making all those visits impossible. The councilmember said she still travels to a few parties, but spends time on her own block celebrating with her neighbors.

City councilmembers often accompany police officers in squad cars or with volunteer fire fighters in fire trucks, stopping to visit with residents at different parties around the city.

Fire fighters gave out 1,000 red plastic “Fire Chief” helmets to people of all ages during the 2012 NNO.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” Samuelson said. “We’re looking forward to doing it again in August.”

This year’s NNO is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. rain or shine.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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