Hundreds of Secaucus residents came out on Aug. 7 to participate in National Night Out in Buchmuller Park in Secaucus. They were treated to a night of free food, games, music, and crime prevention information.
In its 29th year across the country, the anti-crime and drug prevention event heightens awareness and strengthens participation in local anticrime efforts.
“It is very important to bring all together to stop violence,” said Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari. He paid a personal visit to a number of Hudson County towns including Secaucus. “We have the most diverse county in the state. It is important that we get out and reach out to all the neighborhoods.”
He noted that all 12 municipalities were participating in National Night Out and that the Sheriff’s Department had a presence at each one.
Last year 37 million people joined in community events throughout the USA and Canada. Secaucus saw hundreds of families come out for the event.
Schillari was pleased with the turn out in each municipality and said that it was heavier than last year.
“We are taking the streets back.” – Detective Sergeant Carlos Goyenechea
Goyenechea has served on the Secaucus Police Department 15 years. He said that it was important for families to meet other families in town.
“We are taking the streets back,” said Goyenechea.
“It is important for the town of Secaucus to come together as a community,” said Councilwoman Susan Pirro. “It is good for children to get exposure to the Police Department and the Fire Department.”
Building a positive relationship with law enforcement
National Night Out, “America's Night Out Against Crime,” dates back to 1984 when the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch decided a high-profile, high-impact type of crime prevention event was needed nationally. One of the goals is to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.
Many members of the Police Department, Fire Department, the EMT, and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office were on hand to provide safety information. Several emergency vehicles such as an ambulance and local Fire Department squad car were available for children to explore.
Schillari noted that it was important to combat the image often associated between youth and police officers where youth are often portrayed in handcuffs.
“It is important to let young people know that the Sheriff is their friend,” said Schillari. He said that the Sheriff’s department conducts their own outreach and provides programming in the schools that is separate from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program provided by local police departments.
Raising awareness about crime prevention
“Be aware of your surroundings,” said Goyenechea, sharing a crime prevention tip.
Goyenechea said that the Police Department offers awareness raising programs in the schools through DARE and through classes for seniors on safety and crime prevention. DARE teaches children the skills to live a drug-and-violence-free life. The program also incorporates lessons on modern-day issues and realities that students face in today’s world.
One parent was impressed with how involved and invested the Secaucus police officers were in the program.
“I was amazed at how well organized it was,” said Kathryn Brinkrode, who attended the fifth grade DARE graduation. “The kids were so proactive.” She said she was moved by the children’s presentations during the graduation and could tell the program had an impact on them.
“It was fun but educational,” said Brinkrode about the program.
During the event, parents lined up to get safety information and have fingerprints taken of their children for personal identification kits they could take home.
“It is great having the fingerprints and hanging out with friends,” said Lili Dunke. A resident of three years, she had taken her two daughters to the event.
Difference one person makes
“Even small people can make a big difference,” said Tanya Dunke, 7. Her 5-year-old sister Heidi had just reached the top of the mountain climbing wall and rung the bell.
Friend Alexandria Feil, 7, was ecstatic about Heidi’s accomplishment and the three girls shared multiple group hugs. This was just one scene of many of laughter and fun as children romped around taking in the bouncy castle, the climbing wall, or taking their turn falling off the mechanical bull.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.