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National Night Out in York City, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017.

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Last week’s National Night Out was, by all accounts, a success throughout York County, as communities hosted events in which residents and police interacted absent the usual tensions and suspicion that often accompany a police call.

The initiative began in the 1980s and has evolved into a community outreach for not only police but also community organizations offering a variety of support to residents.

York City resident and community activist Carla Christopher said it best when she noted that if people are reticent to reach out for support and help — or if they fear the police — they aren’t being reached and they aren’t being served.

Another interesting perspective from National Night Out in York City was that of Gerardo Rivera, 50, who came out to meet city police officers.

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Rivera said that while police might sometimes be met with wariness and even distrust, his experience after dealing with many of the city officers in his community is that they are forthright and earnest in their communication and dealings with him.

He also noted that the assumptions of judgment and mistrust can flow both ways.

Most people in the city judge police officers without making an attempt to get to know them, Rivera said, before trying to share some advice with his neighbors on how to approach officers.

"I don't look at the uniform. I look at the person wearing the uniform," Rivera said.

We would advocate for more outreach across York County — more often.

Christopher’s message is one that should be extolled loudly and frequently:

“It's up to us to take the first step, to go out into the community, to set our tables up —literally right in the street — and say, 'Absolutely, we're here. Our door is open. Our hearts are open. Our hands are open.'"

Imagine if this message was being consistently received by the community? There are unsung officers and community boosters working behind the scenes to support vulnerable residents. But often, those residents don’t know the services available to them.

Holding such interactions once a year is not enough. How do we best build on the goodwill that is cultivated during these events and increase nonconfrontational police-community interactions? And how do we create organizational outreach that is consistent and effective?

 The answers need to come much sooner than next year’s National Night Out.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/opinion/2017/08/09/editorial-national-night-out-hit/551522001/