Two weeks ago, Harold Moore had no idea what a National Night Out was. By Tuesday night, he had convinced every establishment in the Davis Islands Business District to stage a Taste of Davis Islands to go along with it.
National Night Out is a crime and drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The campaign involves citizens, elected officials, law enforcement, civic groups and neighborhood associations. Last year's event took place in all 50 states in over 15,000 communities.
"I've been in charge of the Neighborhood Watch for about a year and a half but I hadn't heard about it until just recently," Moore said. "This is the first time we've had one on Davis Islands but I know in New Tampa they've had success with it. I was approached by the police department liason about doing this, and we just thought why not partner it with a Taste of Davis Islands?"
As head of the Davis Islands Neighborhood Watch, Moore is familiar with the area's crime problems and relished the opportunity to partner with the Tampa Police Department and Crimestoppers to try to educate residents on things they can do to prevent what he has dubbed "crimes of opportunity."
"We have a real sense of community here that leads to people leaving their car doors unlocked and garage doors open," Moore said. "One of our biggest issues here is stolen bikes. You see two kids come in on one bike and leave on two. If we can make people more aware of safety precautions we can make these crimes of opportunity stop."
Ben Brown is a part of the Tampa Police Department's bomb squad. He has been attending National Night Out events for 15 years and enjoys the chance to interact with the community in an environment that is positive and less traumatic than most people's typical dealings with police.
"Most of the time when people deal with police something bad has happened or they're getting a ticket; so it's nice a have a positive atmosphere in which we can interact with the public," Brown said. "A lot of people don't realize everything that goes on in their own neighborhood, and I think one aspect of this that is really good is that it can help make people more aware."
Residents from all over the island turned out to sample products from Davis Islands businesses, whether it was wings from The Anchor Bar, ice cream from Farrell's, or dog food samples from Wag.
Also on hand were engravers to etch bicycle owners' identification card numbers into the bike. The bike is then registered with the Tampa Police Department and can be recovered if stolen.
Chris Ross, 35, lives just up the road from the business district and was excited when he heard of the National Night Out and what it had to offer. Having never previously known of the 28-year tradition, Ross's curiosity was sparked when he saw a sign announcing the event.
"I grew up in a police family so I'm familiar with Neighborhood Watch, but I've never heard of these," Ross said. "It's a pretty good idea in a community as small as this. There doing some cool things with the bike registration and Crimestoppers so I'm glad to see it. We have to stick together in this area and support things like this."