That’s what National Night Out is all about.
Held annually on the first Tuesday of August, this year’s campaign returns on Aug. 6, and in Gloucester Township, everything is on track for another successful year of community building.
“It’s an opportunity to just go out and meet people. To shake hands,” Gloucester Township Police Department Lt. Mark Benton said. “It’s an opportunity for people to have a one-on-one and meet the officers.”
Gloucester Township National Night Out is spearheaded by the GTPD, and the department works hard to interact with as many community members as possible during the event.
At press time, GTPD had 26 neighborhood NNO stops scheduled. These are in addition to the township’s two public locations for those living in developments not hosting a neighborhood event. These free public events, open to all residents, are located at the Erial Fire Department, 1946 Williamstown Road, Erial, and the Blackwood Fire Department, 14 W. Central Ave., Blackwood.
The teams visiting the neighborhoods consist of “members of every group run out of the police department,” Benton said, including officers, K-9s, command staff, administrators, chaplains, volunteers, Domestic Violence Response Team members, school resource officers and more. Each neighborhood event will receive a visit from GTPD representatives sometime between 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., giving them a chance to chat, share barbecue and even toss a football.
Fireworks will cap off the festivities at 9:30 p.m. at Veteran’s Park on Chews Landing Road.
In addition to building camaraderie in the community, NNO is also a chance for the GTPD to publicize its programming.
“A lot of people don’t realize all of the programs we run,” Benton said, mentioning the department offers a number of juvenile and community programs.
NNO started in 1984, according to the NNO website. Approximately 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states took part. To date, this year’s celebration will include 38 million neighbors and 16,000 communities.
Gloucester Township’s NNO celebration has been ranked No. 1 in the state for several years, and last year it climbed one spot up to be ranked No. 7 in the nation. The ranking is based on a number of factors, including police programming, commitment to NNO, banners and advertising and more.
“We’re very proud of being No. 1 in the state,” Benton said, stressing the Gloucester Township NNO success is due to everyone involved. “It’s not the police department and the community. It’s a partnership. We work with the community, and the community works with us.”
The GTPD is hosting a “Light the Night” contest in conjunction with National Night Out this year. Residents who best decorate their homes with holiday lights may be featured on the GTPD social media pages and earn bragging rights! For more information about GTPD and Gloucester Township’s NNO, visit www.gtpolice.com. Learn more about the national NNO efforts at www.natw.org.