ST. LOUIS • Neighborhoods standing up to crime across the St. Louis area tonight might, for a change, need to defend against the elements armed with jackets and umbrellas.
Some communities in the St. Louis region will participate tonight in the 29th annual National Night Out, typically held the first and sometimes sweltering week of August. The event is designed to bring residents and police together to fight crime in their neighborhoods.
A national organization promotes the event but local cities and neighborhood groups do most of the planning. Although most participating cities hold events in August, communities across Texas decided three years ago to move National Night Out to October because of the stifling summer heat.
The St. Louis region appears to be following suit. St. Louis’ summer heatwave that brought multiple days of triple-digit temperatures prompted police chiefs around the region to shift events to October instead.
Some police agencies including St. Louis, Hazelwood and University City, already held events in August and September. Others, such as St. Louis County police, Ballwin, Ellisville, Town and Country, Chesterfield, St. Peters and O’Fallon, Mo., are participating tonight.
The high temperature in St. Louis peaked at 100 degrees on Aug. 7 when the majority of cities across the country celebrated nights out. Area police departments are used to that.
“We’d show up looking like we just got out of a sauna,” Des Peres Police Officer Brandon Elzinga said of past events. His department is among agencies participating tonight.
By contrast, meteorologists are calling for lows in the high 50s tonight and a 30 percent chance of rain.
Maplewood Police Chief Stephen Kruse credits the move to October with nearly doubling the number of registered block parties this year over last. He said 17 block parties had signed up by late Monday afternoon over last year’s nine.
“This is the highest participation we’ve had since I started,” said Kruse, who has been chief since 2009. “It’s very heartening, to say the least.”
Kirkwood police will be holding a daytime event from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday similar to that of tonight's evening gatherings. Kirkwood's event will include grilling and snacks at police headquarters. Officers will also offer free ID cards to children.