York County police departments host National Night Out events
Everyone should feel comfortable enough to let their kids play in the front yards without constantly looking over their shoulders.
No matter where they call home, they have the right to feel safe where they live.
To further that notion, the National Association of Town Watch, a non-profit crime prevention organization launched the National Night Out more than 30 years ago.
The benefit: "It's the community becoming involved in crime prevention and supporting the police department, it's them helping us to improve the quality of their neighborhood and combatting fear," said York City Police Lt. Gene Fells.
National Night Out, which will be celebrated across the country Tuesday, is an annual community-building event that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie with the goal of promoting safety in towns and neighborhoods.
National Night out events spread across more than 16,000 communities.
Even Gov. Tom Wolf will join the efforts and host a National Night Out event for the first time at the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg.
"The largest benefit is to get the community and our officers together in a non-confrontational setting where they can interact one-on-one when we're not dealing with some kind of incident or tragedy," said Northern York County Regional Police Department's Lt. David Lash.
Successful community outreach could play a major role in bolstering safety, Lash said, noting that his department — through social media and other outlets — has been trying to build engagement with the citizens it protects.
"The better engaged we are with our community, the more knowledge we have of what's going on, the more likely they are to interact with us, help us, give us tips," he said. "The more we have that engagement, the safer and better off everyone else is."
Night out: Northern York County Regional's National Night Out will be held at the Union Fire and Hose Company on East Canal Street in Dover from 5:30-8:00 p.m.
"Going forward we're going to stick with themes that are going to be good for the community; this year we're focusing on safety," Lash said.
In addition to fun attractions like a petting zoo, raffle prizes and snacks, the event will also have a distracted driving simulator.
"It can sit up to six people at a time and simulates how your driving while texting, and things like that, and then it plays it back to you and shows how badly you're actually handling your vehicle."
They will also feature dunk tank; for every donated item, the participant will have three attempts to dunk officers and special guests who volunteer to brave the tank.
The York City Police Department, rather than have the event at one location, has partnered with more than 25 host sites in the city.
"Lots of people will grill and have cook-outs," Fells said. "There will be face painting, DJs, games, we have churches open up there parking lots — there are a lot of smaller communities that have specified locations...in effect, this is where we want them to celebrate and feel safe: in their own personal communities, in their backyards."
The city department will take advantage of the opportunity to be visible to the community it's protecting, Fells said.
"We always have cars patrolling but (Tuesday) our staff will be out, our chief will be out, Mayor (Kim) Bracey will be out," he said. "We'll have that visibility and we want everyone else in the community to be equally as visible, it's an opportunity to get out there get some safety information out, and get face time with all the good people in our community."
Other events: "Nearly all the departments in the county hold events," Lash said. "And if the department doesn't, a lot of times neighborhood watch groups will do something, it's a pretty big event."
Other National Night Out events being held around York County include:
• Carroll: Logan Park, on Logan Road in Carroll Township, 5-9 p.m. The event will include a family style cook out with exhibits by local fire departments, law enforcement agencies, prizes and a food drive
• Spring Garden Township: Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center, 899 South Richland Ave., 6-8 p.m. The event will feature food, music, face painting, balloon twisting, a bounce house, dunk tank, softball speed throw and other games.
• Southwestern: Spring Grove Area C&MA Church, 213 N. Main St., 6-9 p.m. The event will feature free York Revolution baseball tickets, McGruff the Crime Dog, a bounce house, vendors, and free hotdogs and drinks.
• Wrightsville: Riverfront Park off South Front Street, 6-8 p.m. Live music, giveaways, raffles, sno-cones, face painting, a bicycle obstacle course and displays from local clubs and businesses.
And in West York, the West York Block Watch will offer food, music, and giveaways at Shelly Park, North Highland Avenue and Filbert Street. A bike rodeo for children includes an obstacle course and a chance to win a new bike. School supplies will be available, as will fingerprinting for children. The event will be held 5-8 p.m.
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.