Make a night of it with police

Special to the Sun

National event bolsters law-enforcement ties to community

Berlin Borough announced a National Night Out for early next month with a twist on the annual event: Instead of people coming to the police, the police will come to them.

That’s why the department wants block parties in the community on National Night Out to host not only police, but the borough’s Office of Emergency Management, Berlin Fire Company No.1 and Berlin EMS, according to The Sun.

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It’s an attempt, according to police community relations officer Joshua Smith, to occasion a more intimate experience between first responders and residents that strengthens connections.

National Night Out is a community-building campaign on the first Tuesday in August that promotes police-community partnerships to help make U.S. neighborhoods safer and more caring places to live, according to the National Night Out website. It began in 1984 with 2.5 million neighbors in 400 communities in 23 states.

The goal is to bring officers and residents together under positive circumstances. That has been especially important in recent years after a spate of police killings that reached their height with the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The cry of “defund the police” at protests around the country became a mantra, though in the end, few municipalities lowered their police budgets and others actually increased them, ABCNews reported in October.

ABC-owned TV stations examined the budgets of more than 100 cities and counties and found that 83% spent at least 2% more on police in 2022 than in 2019. Of 109 budgets analyzed, only eight agencies cut police funds by more than 2%.

But “defend the police” stuck, hurting officer morale in the New York City police department, whose retirements in 2020 skyrocketed, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told ABC.

“More than any budget cut, the greatest damage from the ‘defund the police’ movement was done by its anti-police, anti-public safety message,” he maintained.

“It has created an impossible environment on the streets, one where even the simplest interactions turn into a confrontation.”

To prevent that, National Night Out and similar events bring people and their neighborhood police together not for confrontations, but for camaraderie. Millions take part in the event in all 50 states and at military bases around the world each year.

Activities include everything from cookouts to programs that educate the community on what police do and how.

And this year – rather than one centralized location – Berlin police will take their National Night Out show on the road.

“We listen to the residents and their needs, and we heard from a lot of (community) members that they preferred us going into the neighborhoods, sharing a slice of pizza, eating a hamburger and just hanging out in the driveway or front lawn of their house,” Smith told The Sun.

Besides Berlin, National Night Out events are being held in South Jersey from Gibbsboro to Glassboro, Maple Shade to Marlton, Gloucester Township to Gloucester County.

To find out if your town is participating, contact police.

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