People went outside and greeted their neighbors as they and police let criminals know their community was organized and watchful.
In the Wildwoods, events for National Night Out included everything from a dunk tank and live music by the group “Shoots and Ladders” in North Wildwood to an inflatable bounce and State Police K-9 demonstration in Wildwood.
The Wildwood event, held at Maxwell Field, also featured refreshments and prizes for the city’s children and guest appearances by mascots including McGruff the Crime Dog.
North Wildwood police Capt. Matt Gallagher said the city’s event at the Eighth Avenue field was a group effort by the city’s various departments and crime watch volunteers.
“You put a face on people,” Gallagher said of the event’s role in the community. “You meet the police and fire (staff) in the town. It’s a great family event.”
National Night Out started in 1984 as a high-profile way to get communities involved in preventing crime, according to the organization’s website. It started with 400 participating communities in 23 states, and by last year had grown to 35.4 million participants in 11,310 communities in all 50 states.
The original idea was for police officers to walk the streets with residents in a symbolic taking back of their neighborhoods, said Sgt. Kevin Mott, spokesman for Galloway Township police. But that type of event was not compatible with Galloway’s rural character, so it became an event “to form a police-community partnership,” he said.
Sgt. Frank Weir and Cpl. Harvey Bird of Galloway Township’s Community Policing Unit put together Tuesday night’s event, which included demonstrations by police dogs and the state Forest Fire Service, and information from several local safety and law enforcement agencies and amusements for children, Mott said.
“It’s a way for the citizens to see what services we’ll be able to provide” and to improve their relations with the police, Mott said.
At Victoria Crossing in Hamilton Township, National Night Out is an opportunity for residents of the community’s 432 homes to meet each other and township officials, said co-coordinator Deb Lafferty. The event was set to feature bicycle safety inspections, a sand volleyball tournament and information from local emergency service organizations.
While the neighborhood has not had much serious crime, there have been nuisances, and “the more people know each other, the less likely you are to have problems,” Lafferty said.
Pleasantville did not hold a Night Out on Tuesday, instead opting to focus its resources on a Back to School Extravaganza Youth Empowerment event set for Aug. 28 at the High School.
Mayor Jesse Tweedle said he believes the city is doing well in meeting the theme behind Night Out, which is to have the community work with police. Since a spark in violence, calls from residents reporting crimes to police, Crime Stoppers and other officials have increased, he said. “We want to keep the momentum going and keep the community involved,” he said.
Atlantic City was providing a free barbecue for residents, along with information about Crime Stoppers, face painting and fingerprint identification kits for parents, said coordinator Officer Bob Berg.
There has been some recent gun violence in the city, and people have been reluctant to come forward with what they knew about the crimes, Berg said. The focus of Tuesday night’s activities was to inform residents about the Crime Stoppers hotline so they can safely pass on tips to law enforcement.
“It’s anonymous, there are rewards. The people who are afraid of being retaliated against, no one will know” who they are, Berg said. “It will give the people another tool to work.
Staff Writers Lynda Cohen, Trudi Gilfillian, Derek Harper and Elaine Rose contributed to this report.