Three block parties brought North Bergen residents and police officers together on Tuesday, Aug. 7 as part of the “National Night Out Against Crime” festivities that are held each year in towns throughout the county. There was more awareness of the events this year, as the number of attendees from each block party exceeded that of last year. Among water slides, fingerprinting, and music cascading down the street, the community mingled for a good cause.
“It gets progressively bigger,” said Sgt. David Dowd.
The local block parties were held in these locations: Seventh Street and Grand Avenue; 6121 Grand Ave. (the Housing Authority area); and 74th Street and Broadway.
Each party had a different vibe. The first location had a bouncy house for the kids, fingerprinting in case a child is lost, music and food provided by Pat LaFrieda, a meat purveyor. The second location had a DJ, a water slide for the kids, and temporary tattoos for the kids. The final location, the largest of the three, had cotton candy, hot dogs, a bouncy house, and a DJ.
“It’s an opportunity to get to know the residents in the town.” - Captain Christopher Brignola
Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Commissioner Theresa Ferraro, and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez were in attendance for the festivities.
As the sun died down, the glow sticks that were handed out provided a good aid to make one’s way through the crowd.
National Night Out roots
According to Town Spokesperson Phil Swibinski, National Night Out festivities in North Bergen have been run for about 15 years.
The national campaign encourages neighbors to go outside, meet their neighbors, and get to know the local police.
Elaine and Edward LaTour, who helped organize the first location, have continued with the tradition they once began in front of their store, LaTour’s Deli. The LaTours have been participating with national night out for 15 years and have been North Bergen residents for 44 years. Edward LaTour also works with the North Bergen Board of Education.
“We started this a long time ago just with our neighbors; we’d sit under the tree,” said Elaine LaTour.
“We’ve participated a number of years with the mayor and the police department,” said Edward LaTour. “It’s an exciting thing throughout the county.”
Deputy Chief Robert Dowd said that the LaTours’ block party grew every year from a mere barbecue to having a live band and now having Italian ices as well as a bouncy house for the kids.
“Mr. and Mrs. LaTour have been a phenomenal supporter of the program and they’re a fixture in this neighborhood,” said Deputy Chief Dowd. “In my opinion they really represent what community’s all about.”
Volunteering for the community
There were 45 volunteers from the North Bergen Police Department at the event. There were also 15 Hudson County Sheriff’s Officers, according to Sheriff Frank Schillari.
“It’s great to be able to interact with the community,” said Police Officer Alex Barrios.
“It’s an opportunity to get to know the residents in the town,” said Captain Christopher Brignola. “If there are any questions or concerns they may have we can address them. Really, we work for them.”
He added, “It’s actually a chance for people in the neighborhood to get to know each other. I may come across people I haven’t seen in quite some time.”
Kids come out
The kids liked it as well.
“I’m happy they’re enjoying it,” said Kendall Seidenari about her two daughters.
There were even some newcomers who took part. Tushar Shah and his family have been living in North Bergen for nine months. The family moved from Manchester New Hampshire.
“For unity its good,” said Tushar Shah.
Claire Guarcello had left North Bergen for 10 years but is now back with her son Justin.
“[Mayor] Sacco keeps this town clean [of crime],” said Claire Guarcello. “There’s no fear walking the streets.”
Some were not even North Bergen residents. Robert Brockmann from Hoboken has come for the last two years, he said.
“The police can’t be everywhere, so it’s really important for the community to be...tight knit,” Dowd said. “A night like tonight is important because your able to get that partnership with the public and the police.”
Town Spokesperson Phil Swibinski said, “When people know the police officers, they see them in the neighborhood they trust them and it helps them do their jobs better, helps the police keep everyone safer.”
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org