It’s been years since a local neighborhood participated in National Night Out, but a Payson neighborhood recently got together to get to know each other and hopefully encourage other neighborhoods to follow suit.

Started in 1984 as a crime prevention program, it encouraged neighbors to gather in the streets, turn on their house and porch lights and show their resolve to reduce crime in their neighborhoods. The idea has since expanded throughout the country as National Night Out.

On Oct. 13, a scaled-down version of National Night Out was held along East Phoenix Street.

“By all accounts the event was a huge success,” said Tim Gallagher, POA president of the Rim View Heights subdivision. “I am currently volunteering with Payson Police Department and during my interview with Chief Tischer, he stated he wanted to start up a Block Watch this year and attempt to put together a local National Night Out. We decided to pilot it this year on a smaller scale to gauge the interest. I told the chief I would attempt to get our neighborhood and the others along Phoenix Street to participate.”

Payson Police officer Keven Rush helped coordinate the event.

“We could not be more pleased with what we witnessed and participated in last night,” he said.

Four subdivisions along Phoenix Street took part. Just before sundown, neighbors came out and gathered together, enjoying the cooler weather.

“Sometimes it was just old friends reconnecting, and sometimes meeting new neighbors who had recently moved into the neighborhoods,” Gallagher said.

Several neighbors hosted gatherings in their front yards.

“I was delighted that so many neighbors got together after a long period apart due to the pandemic. The event helped us rebuild our community spirit,” said Randy Mayner, president of Pinon Estates subdivision.

Crime prevention was a topic for many. Several people shared contact information and made a commitment to watch out for their neighbors, especially when they were away on vacation.

Several police officers and firefighters stopped by. When asked about these efforts, Rush stated that “statistics have shown year after year that neighborhoods that are actively engaged in the well-being of their residents are safer places to live and the quality of life in the neighborhood is better.”

Steve Rang, known for helping anyone in need, especially the older residents in the neighborhood, praised the event.

“I firmly believe that it is important to give back to our community in meaningful ways to help neighbors that need a little extra help from time to time. There is nothing quite like the smile on their face and the thank you they give for the assistance I can give them,” he said.

When asked about the value that an event like this brings to the neighborhood, Barb Overfield, another resident along Phoenix Street, said that “two things come to mind, it was like the America in which I grew up. Neighbors gathering without fear and eager to get to know each other.”

Where does this event go from here? Rush said that, “we would like to see this program grow in Payson and expand to all neighborhoods. It really provides firefighters and officers an opportunity to build relationships with our residents in ways that we may not otherwise have an opportunity to do.”

In 2009, homeowners in the 200 and 300 block of East Cedar Lane were honored for hosting a National Night Out event. The event was held for several more years, including at Green Valley Park, but then stopped.

Gallagher hopes to see the event held again next year and “even better.”

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