Next Tuesday, Aug. 6, nearly two dozen communities in St. Mary’s will join neighborhoods throughout Southern Maryland and across the nation in celebrating the 36th annual National Night Out. From one end of the county to the other, and all in between, neighbors will be gathering for block parties from about 6 to 8 p.m.

Police officers will certainly be dropping in — not to tell people to break it up or turn down the music, but to celebrate right along with them. The whole thing encourages lasting awareness, watchfulness and deterrence of criminal activity.

It shows residents — particularly our young people — that law enforcement professionals are peace officers. Part of keeping and promoting peace is for folks to see people with badges for who they really are: our neighbors, who are always ready to help at a moment’s notice. If people know and recognize them, they’ll feel more comfortable with local law enforcement. That means they may be more aware of when something is amiss and feel more at ease alerting the police.

Cpl. Angela Delozier of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office is the local coordinator for National Night Out, and it would be hard to find a better ambassador for local law enforcement. A 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, she primarily works as a school resource officer at local high schools. She also serves as an instructor with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. In addition to running that week-long summer camp, Delozier presents DARE activities in elementary schools throughout the year, giving children positive direction in making decisions in their lives, beyond the mixed messages they may get elsewhere.

Neighborhoods and sites signed up to host NNO block parties include Lexington Village, Town Creek, Colony Square, Spring Valley, Willow Gate Townhomes, Greenbrier and the St. Mary’s County Housing Authority in Lexington Park; Birch Way, St. Andrew’s Estates, Elizabeth Hills and Discovery Commons in California; Persimmon Hills, Golden Beach/Patuxent Knolls, St. Joseph’s Community Center, Country Lakes, Church Crossing Estates and Ben Oaks in the Mechanicsville area; Clarks Rest and Breton Bay in the Leonardtown area; Rosecroft in St. Mary’s City; and Heards Estates in Great Mills. If your neighborhood is participating in National Night Out, but is not listed above, contact Delozier at the sheriff’s office at 301-475-4200, ext. *8094, or email her at angela.delozier@stmarysmd.com.

“I encourage parents and children in these neighborhoods to step outside that evening to better get to know your neighbors and the police officers who also live and serve in your community,” Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said in a release this week. “We all want a safe and friendly environment for ourselves and our children to live in and fostering positive relationships with each other is vitally important.”

We read all too often about misunderstandings across the country between law officers and citizens that end tragically, sometimes with the death of either the officer or the citizen. We’re fortunate not to have to print such news stories here in St. Mary’s, and perhaps much of that is owed to law enforcement’s neighborly presence in our local community.

Next Tuesday’s celebrations are another happy reminder that no matter what’s going on in this increasingly divided age, St. Mary’s is a relatively peaceful place on the planet. It’s not newsworthy that almost all of the 112,000-plus people who live, work, play and relax here do so safely each day, but it is pretty good news. So get out and enjoy the neighborhood with folks who are always looking out for you.