NEW CARROLLTON – Rain couldn’t stop the celebration on National Night Out.
In spite of periods of heavy showers on Aug. 1, National Night Out events across the county continued as scheduled. The program is designed to provide an opportunity for community members to spend time together and with law enforcement and public safety personnel, fostering relationships. In Prince George’s County, the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) held more than 59 events in the county.
“We’ve talked to a lot of our friends, we've seen a lot of things tonight,” said Chief Hank Stawinksi on a Twitter video. Stawinksi made the rounds at several National Night Out events, including stops at Largo, Suitland, Palmer Park and Capitol Heights. “I’m so proud of this community and the way we turned out.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also spent his National Night Out in Prince George’s County, visiting the New Carrollton event held at the New Carrollton Community Center. Hogan said he enjoys the opportunity the event affords him to see residents and thank the law enforcement personnel that work the keep them safe.
“It’s just a really great program,” Hogan said. “Every year that I’ve been governor I’ve come to Prince George’s County. I grew up in Prince George's County and spent my whole life here so I’m out here to say hi to the community and thank the police officers.”
County Executive Rushern Baker, III, also stopped by several National Night Out events. He turned the entire day into public safety day, visiting the fire department at FedExField in Landover for a demonstration of $50 million worth of new apparatus and equipment purchased during his administration.
“We have made great progress in upgrading the equipment that our first responders need, and more importantly, we have also heavily invested in training, recruiting, and increasing community engagement so that our residents get the very best service,” Baker said.
He added that National Night Out offers the opportunity for county residents to “meet the wonderful people who put their lives on the line for us. It is an opportunity to thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
The various events around the county featured activities for children such as inflatable toys and bounce castles, face painting and rides, as well as free food and music. Adults got to meet their neighbors and officers at their local precinct, as well as had the opportunity to receive information about various county services and programs.
“We pass out information at these events related to domestic violence, how you can get in touch with us. We also talk about teen court, we have a back on track program,” said county State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks at the Largo event. “So we talk about prevention. A lot of information we share at National Night Out is how to stay safe, how to keep our kids moving in the right direction.”
National Night Out began in 1984 through the National Association of Town Watches (NATW), an organization founded to help town watch groups across the United States share resources and support. According to NATW, the first event had 2.5 million participants in 400 communities, compared to today’s 38 million participants in 16,000 communities.
Law enforcement and public safety professionals have embraced National Night Out as an opportunity to build positive relationships with the communities they serve, which helps them fight crime more effectively.
“What we know in public safety and in every other area is that we can do very little without community engagement. Encouraging community engagement helps us in crime fighting,” Alsobrooks said. “Everything we do, we do in collaboration with our citizens, and tonight we really celebrate what we do as a community.”
Nationally, relations between police departments and the communities they serve have been strained by various high-profile incidents of officer-involved shootings, some of which have sparked riots. But Hogan says in Maryland, events like this – and others the departments here put on throughout the year – contribute to more positive relations than seen elsewhere.
“All of the local police departments, and our state police and county police, are working really hard to try to establish good relationships in the community. I think it’s more important than ever, and I think they’re making real progress,” Hogan said. “And I think it is things like these events tonight that bring some of members of the community together with our law enforcement, give them the chance to meet each other and enjoy an evening together, I think it makes a real difference.”