National Night Out events begin Saturday

National Night Out, a nationwide crime prevention program, kicks off in Prince William County on Saturday. The weekend’s events will feature two mascots, McGruff the Crime Dog and Big Shot from the Prince William Cannons, and two motorcades that will travel through the county visiting neighborhoods and handing gifts to children.

National Night Out is an annual event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watches. Prince William County has been participating for 17 years. The county’s efforts have won a national award annually since 1988, and an estimated 75 percent of its neighborhood watch programs are involved.

Dawn Harman, of the Prince William police Crime Prevention Unit, said the first step toward homeland security is protecting communities.

“Since Sept. 11, there has been a push for homeland security,” she said. “We believe that homeland security begins with basic crime prevention.”

On Saturday, the motorcades will travel through Lake Ridge and Manassas. They will end at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, where there will be a fireworks show.

Another motorcade will make its way through Woodbridge, Dumfries and Dale City on Sunday with the same participants and events as were scheduled for Saturday.

In addition, the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative will be sponsoring a National Night Out expo Tuesday. The free event will take place at the Potomac Mills mall and will feature free videotaping and fingerprinting of children, so that in the event of an emergency, police will have immediate records available. Classic Rock 94.7 FM will be there in addition to the area’s minor league women’s soccer team, the Northern Virginia Majestics, who will be signing autographs.

Also on Tuesday, Prince William police will hold a “Light Up The Night” program. They are asking all county residents to turn their porch lights on at 10 p.m. Tuesday to “show criminals we are united and fighting back against crime,” Harman said.

Detective Dennis Mangan, a spokesman for Prince William police, said the program is intended to “heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and send a message to criminals that citizens are watching.”

Mangan said that on Saturday one of motorcades will stop in Yorkshire Village, Sudley Place, Jamaica Lane, Summertree, Country Scene, Westgate Apartments, Irongate, Sunnybrook, Highland Park, Braemar community and the Hamlets. The other will visit Occoquan Landing, River Ridge, Wyndale Court, Chalet Court, Wildwood III, Flint Hill Place, Mount Burnside, Hickory Knoll, Berwick Place and Berwick Pointe. The visits will occur between 1:20 and 5:55 p.m., Mangan said.

The motorcade scheduled for Sunday will visit Woodbridge, Dumfries, Quantico and Dale City. In addition, it will travel to the neighborhoods of Longwood Commons, Georgetown Village, Old Post Terrace, Marumsco Village, Burleigh Lane, Algonquin Hills, and Ridgefield Village. It will be out between 1:15 and 6:10 p.m.

“With the neighborhood watch program, we are asking citizens to be our eyes and ears,” Harman said. “We’re looking to show that we’re united and fighting back against crime and terrorism and everything that is plaguing our society.”

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