Alan Rosen didn’t eat a hot dog or piece of cake, and he didn’t hop in the bounce house. The Harris County Precinct 1 Constable also didn’t make any requests to the band performing outside.
No, the name on the 96-year-old brick building is what attracted Rosen to 115 E. 14th St., the longtime home of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. At least that’s what he jokingly told the eclectic mix of members during his visit Tuesday night.
“I love being out here,” Rosen said. “I love being with y’all every year because y’all are the odd fellows.”
The fraternal organization in the Heights held one of several National Night Out events across the area as part of a citywide initiative to foster better relationships between community members and the law enforcement agencies that serve them, with the ultimate goal of combating crime. Much of the country celebrates National Night Out on the first Tuesday of August, whereas Houston holds its events on the first Tuesday of October.
The local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an international community-oriented organization with a motto of “Friendship, Love and Truth,” has put on a National Night Out event each of the last four years. This year’s featured free refreshments such as hot dogs, cake and soft drinks, the bounce house for kids, live music by area Americana band Tres Blondies and a few art cars parked in front of the building.
“This is one (event) that we do to let the community know that we’re here, because we’re not, like, hiding inside doing any weird rituals,” said Ken Hoge, who serves as warden for the organization. “We’re just people who live in and love this community and want to make it a better place.”
Hoge said the lodge invited the constable’s office, Houston Police Department, Houston Fire Department and the Heights’ two Harris County Commissioners, Jack Cagle and Rodney Ellis. During the first hour of Tuesday’s event, about 15 members of Rosen’s office were in attendance to mingle with community members and share a meal with them.
Rosen, who visited multiple National Night Out events, said visiting with citizens is his “favorite thing to do.” He said he requires his patrolling deputies to stop and talk to community members at least twice per hour during their shifts, with the idea of building relationships and promoting cooperation.
Sgt. Ken Wenzel, who joined the constable’s office after spending more than 25 years with HPD, said he’s experienced instances in which engaged community members provided leads and helped officers solve crimes.
“I think it’s got a great impact on the safety of the community,” Wenzel said of National Night Out. “It’s people getting to talk to people and realizing that we’re not just some dark blue uniform in a car. We’re real-life people.”
Rosen said it’s difficult for law enforcement to address problems in a community without input and cooperation from residents. So he encouraged members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to reach out and tell him how his office could better serve the Heights, which he called the “coolest neighborhood.”
He also said initiatives such as National Night Out should be regular occurrences and not just once per year.
“We cannot be everywhere. We can’t do everything,” Rosen said. “We need the public’s help to solve crimes. We need the public’s help to solve issues in neighborhoods, and working collaboratively to make that happen is the most important thing.”