The Washington Township Police Department is gearing up for its National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
After winning best in the state last year, the township wants to hit a new goal of having the best National Night Out in the country.
“We are in the process of preparing and planning and trying to make it bigger and better than ever,” said Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik. “We are expanding the number of amusements so people don’t have to wait in line with their kids for a long period of time.”
The police department came up with a new idea for the national event in 2017, with the hope of bringing the community closer together. Before that, the department would send officers into township neighborhoods to speak with residents about safety concerns, new additions to the force and community caretaking.
Now, the department and members of the municipality bring residents together at Washington Lake Park to create an enjoyable and stress-free environment that fosters quality connections with officers and other officials.
“It’s really the one night of the year that we can bring our community together and work towards our community caretaking goals,” said Gurcsik. “It’s really a two-way street. The residents get to see our officers in a different light, a stress- free event.
“Everyone gets to see and meet the officers and have a good time with them,” he added. “And when neighbors from all our residences get together with our officers under these positive circumstances, great things happen.”
The police department annually invites the community to the free event, with a BBQ grill manned by the police and a K-9 demonstration. Patrons can also enjoy walking around and browsing the 40 plus vendors that will be in attendance, who can only offer samples, giveaways or free services at the event.
“The vendors are welcome, so they can tell residents all about the services they normally offer,” Gurcsik explained. “We also have a dunk tank and a DJ, and we ordered 4,000 hot dogs and hamburgers, so the police department will be there grilling.”
The event will also offer activities for the younger generation. In previous years, a blow-up obstacle course and slides were available, but this year, the department will multiply the amusements with a blow-up pirate obstacle course, Monsoon Madness attraction and touch-a-truck opportunities.
“We have a dozer and a large truck coming for kids to touch and play with, along with pony rides and a petting zoo,” Gurcsik said. “We will also have a balloon artist and princess fairytale characters for kids … We also invited ‘Captain America’ this year as well.”
Last year, the event welcomed more than 2,000 people and parking spots ran out quickly. To help alleviate that situation and other traffic concerns, a shuttle was made available for those who parked at Chestnut Ridge Middle School instead of the park itself.
To help with the cost of such a large event, the township looks for sponsors every year. There are currently 30 of them donating funds, but the township is seeking more sponsors and vendors. Interested parties can call the office phone of the police department at (856) 589-6664.
“This event aligns with our community caretaking mission, aligning the police officers with the residents,” Gurcsik noted. “Community caretaking is a great part of our mission. It is a community building campaign that helps build better partnerships between residents and police.
“We are constantly trying to foster an awesome relationship with the public and the department.”
National Night Out hours are 6 to 9 p.m.