Public should play role in crime-fighting effort.

Citizens interested in curbing crime always have an opportunity to band together.

Neighborhood Watch programs encourage as much in many communities, Garden City included.

And tonight, National Night Out will see law enforcement officers join with fellow emergency responders and others in an event designed to encourage the public to take notice of ways to make the community safer.

The National Night Out is set for 6 to 8 tonight at the Big Pool in Garden City. Beyond a number of valuable law enforcement-related opportunities a K-9 demonstration, SWAT vehicle display and child ID booth, for example those who attend also will be treated to free swimming, refreshments, face painting and more fun activities.

Organizers want to foster relationships between neighbors as well as with local law enforcement officers, as it's important for all to work together in building a stronger and safer community.

Recent crime data suggests local police and the citizens they serve have made progress. Statistics from the Garden City Police Department show 2012 crime rates in the city decreased overall from 2011.

Police know having the public on the lookout can deter crime, and also help in investigations.

Such cooperation makes even more of a difference as local governments grapple with funding issues.

When city and county officials begin building their respective budgets, they often struggle to find adequate resources to properly arm their crime-fighting units. In communities determined to lower crime including the threat of gang activity public participation becomes even more vital.

Local gang crimes range from burglaries and battery to criminal property or graffiti damage. Street gangs also distribute much of the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and other illegal drugs that plague rural and urban communities nationwide.

In battling such crimes, law enforcement agencies cannot go it alone. Criminals should know neighborhoods also are organized and fighting back.

We know National Night Out and Neighborhood Watch programs can't be expected to ward off all crime.

But the ventures do show citizens that by working together, keeping watch and reporting anything suspicious, they can make their neighborhoods safer a goal well worth the time and effort.