The Berlin Police Department, alongside additional first responders and borough councilmen, visited nine block parties the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 6 in celebration of National Night Out, an annual event focused on building partnerships between local communities and their police departments, as well as other organizations.
The National Association of Town Watch, founded in 1981, was established as a way to provide community watch groups with “the necessary information, resources and assets to stay informed, interested, involved and motivated within the community.”
Three years later in 1984, National Night Out was introduced in August to better connect neighborhoods and their respective police departments and other emergency responders. The first celebration, according to the website, involved 2.5 million community members across 400 communities in 23 states. Since then, the annual celebration has spread to every state and territory in the United States.
The original intention of National Night Out was for the community to invite police departments into their neighborhood gatherings throughout the night, increasing interaction between the groups. While some towns have strayed away from this format in lieu of a single, larger event at one central location, Berlin Borough continued its trend of keeping the NNO tradition alive.
Split into two groups, comprised of members of the Berlin Police Department, Berlin Fire Company, Berlin EMS, Berlin Office of Emergency Management and more, the first responders were invited to block parties to meet, eat and play with adults and children in various neighborhoods throughout the evening.
Borough resident Cheryl Dill helped set up one of the multiple block parties across town for her neighborhood located at Stafford Court, which was the first stop of many for one of the squads visiting residents.
Dill says the court enjoyed the block party experience last summer, during its first National Night Out participation, and was looking forward to doing so again this year.
“We wanted to help get all our neighbors together, we don’t usually see each other all that often because we’re all busy,” said Dill. “It’s a nice night to get everyone out, and also it’s nice to see the Berlin (first responders) face-to-face and talk to them and get to know who they are.”
Berlin Class II Police Officer Hal Talbot, who has also been a school resource officer at Berlin Community School for a little longer than a year, participated in his first National Night Out, visiting block parties. Talbot said it was a great chance to catch up with many of the schoolchildren he routinely sees during the school year and see what they’ve been up to since school ended.
“As soon as I got out of my car, one of the little guys immediately saw me and did a double-take because I’m not usually as dressed down when I’m at the school, so he recognized me,” said Talbot. “It’s great to interact with them and see how their summers have been going.”
Of course, Talbot also says that the importance of an event like National Night Out cannot be understated – the police department and various other groups should get out in the community as much as possible throughout the year.
“It’s extremely important; get your fire department, police, EMS services and all as a group to get together to go into neighborhoods speaking with the community, that’s what’s needed nowadays,” said Talbot. “Because now you’re a person, you’re not just an officer or fire official showing up in an emergency.”