United against crime

Hudson County communities gather for National Night Out

Police and community forge a relationship.
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Police and community forge a relationship.

Residents and members of law enforcement gathered across the county to celebrate National Night Out Against Crime last Tuesday.

The nationwide event promotes police-community partnerships and camaraderie in an effort to make communities safer.

It was designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for local anti-crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, and West New York hosted a variety of gatherings to celebrate.

 Bayonne

Bayonne’s party popped on Broadway between 21st and 23rd Streets. Police, fire, and EMS officials were on the scene, ushering kids on and off of various fleet vehicles, including a U.S. Coast Guard ship, a fire truck, and a SWAT vehicle from the Sheriff’s Office. They were also on the grill, serving up hot dogs and burgers to a long line of hungry attendees.

Kids rebounded off the walls in a small village of bounce houses, and attempted feats of strength on a “bell and hammer.”

Safety lessons at the event included a mini obstacle course that was meant to be climbed through while wearing “drunk goggles,” designed to simulate a blood-alcohol content of over .08, the legal limit. It was being run by Pam O’Donnell, the founder of an organization called Catch You Later, who began advocacy efforts against drunk and distracted driving after her husband and five-year-old daughter were killed by a drugged driver in 2016.

Other advocacy groups were on hand to fund-raise, support the event, and put in some education and outreach efforts with their neighbors. Those groups included Relay For Life, the NAACP, and the Bayonne Special Education Parent Committee.

Remember Me, an organization founded in memory of John “Jack” Santopietro, was also on hand. The organization was founded by his family to increase motorcycle safety awareness in the community, after Santopietro, a lifelong Bayonne resident, died from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle crash involving another vehicle in March 2016.

Hoboken

In Hoboken roughly 1,500 people descended on Church Square Park to get to know their local police officers and enjoy a summer evening food and fun.

Children cooled off at an inflatable water slide, jumped their way through a bouncy house, got their faces painted, and tried their hand at a variety of games.

Disney princesses attended and took pictures with children and people of all ages enjoyed the photo booth.

Local vendors and community advocacy groups were on hand handing out information and dispersing free giveaways like baseball tickets, gift cards and autographed sports memorabilia.

Callahans Hot Dog truck gave out free hot dogs and Gringo’s Taco truck was also dishing some delish food.

Hoboken police officers mingled with the crowd and even helped some with their car seats as they had set up a car seat safety inspection in the parking lot of the AJ Demarest building to help expecting parents keep their children safe on the road.

The Hoboken Fire Department was also on hand helping children explore their fire trucks and demonstrating their ability to help those trapped in car through a live demonstration using the “Jaws of Life.”

Hoboken CERT, Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Hudson County Prosecutors Office, and the Steven’s Institute of Technology police, were also on hand.

Stevens Campus Police Department, City of Hoboken, and the Hoboken Police Department organize the festive evening every year.

Jersey City

 Jersey City celebrated National Night Out at four locations; Pershing Field, Arlington Park, Audubon Park, and Hamilton Park.

Jersey City police officers from the East District joined neighbors and friends in Hamilton Park.

Children jumped through an obstacle course in a bouncy house, battled each other in balloon sword fights as balloon animals were being twisted into shape, and got their faces painted.

Attendees chowed down on free hot dogs and popcorn as they listened to music spun by DJ DEMBY.

10 years resident Cindy Lone, who attended with her two children, said she comes every year.

“It is a great way to show my kids a positive example of cops that are good,” said Lone, “We always tell them find a police officer if you are lost or if you need help. It is good for them to see their faces and to see them out doing good.”

Mayor Steven Fulop credited events like National Night Out as helping to keep crime low as it highlights the partnership and trust built between the community and the police department.

Fulop, Police Chief Kelly, elected official, and police officers presented certificates to several members of the community recognizing them for their contributions to the neighborhood.

North Bergen

North Bergen hosted National Night out in a total of seven locations, all of which had plenty of entertainment, games, food, and, most importantly, face-to-face time between the community and law enforcement.

The grills were fired up all night, and there were plenty of giveaways supported by local donors. The street was filled brim with attendees, and at the end of the night, the organizers put on a raffle where they gave away bikes, vacuum cleaners, gift cards to stores and restaurants, Ring doorbell devices, grills, and more.

Chief Robert Dowd said that the event was the best one he’s seen so far.

“It’s been fantastic,” Dowd said. “We have seven locations spread out throughout the township, to keep that neighborhood feel so everyone can walk to a block party. We have one host for each neighborhood. Here on Broadway, for example, it’s Aimee Focaraccio [coordinator of N.B.C.A.R.E.S.]. Over by Housing Authority property, it’s Gerry Sanzari [Housing Authority director]. It’s all about getting our message out to people and putting things in a positive light. We have 30 cops on any given day out there to protect 70,000 people. If the community wasn’t cooperative, trusting, and a partner in all of this, it would be impossible. Night like this magnify the relationship we forge with the community.”

Over 100 police officers volunteered with local coordinators for the town-wide series of events, which popped up near a lineup of schools, parks, and streets.

“Every spot was huge and successful this year, after last year’s washout due to the bad weather. Over 100 police officers are volunteering their services tonight— this is something you can’t put a price tag on,” Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. .

Secaucus

Secaucus’s National Night out was very carnival-style this year at Buchmuller Park. There were several target games set up for participants to win prizes. One of those prizes was landing a Recreation Department staffer in the dunk tank, by hitting a target with a baseball.

Police and fire officials from Secaucus and the Sheriff’s Office were on hand to get some positive face time in with local residents.

EMS members from Hudson Regional Hospital were on the scene to provide CPR lessons to attendees. They also urged everyone there to pick up a File of Life, as part of an ongoing program they’re running. The File of Life is a pocket-sized, plastic-sealed packet, with a checklist stocked with everything a first responder needs to know in the event of an emergency.

“Everyone should fill out one of these files,” one EMS member said. “Anything one can do to make our jobs faster and easier makes saving a life a much more likely outcome in any event.”

The Secaucus Drug Free Coalition was on hand to provide drop bags for anyone who needs to get rid of prescription medication, to be used at one of the town’s local prescription drop-off stations. They also provided plenty of literature to residents, as part of their mission to educate the community on substance abuse.

The Frank A. Pinto foundation, a nonprofit founded in memory of the late Secaucus Police detective, was also on the scene to advocate for its programs. They run volunteering efforts, fund-raise for the Special Olympics, American Society for Suicide Prevention, Little League, and other charities. They also provide immediate disaster relief for members of the community, along with scholarships and support for youth clubs and other organizations.

Union City

Union City’s National Night Out took place on stretches of Summit Avenue and Palisade Avenue this year, with a lineup of entertainment, activities, and food.

The city provided plenty of transportation to the event from a dozen locations in various neighborhoods, to ensure that everyone could come together.

Musical acts and bands performing live at both locations kept the block party on their feet. First responders from local and county departments, and even three friendly K-9s, came out to mix and mingle with Union City residents. While there was plenty of fun to be had, it was also an opportunity for the Union City Police Department to inform residents about a variety of its programs, by bringing those programs to the party.

A prescription drop box was set up at the event, in case anyone attending the event just so happened to have some unwanted medication they needed to dispose of. The department also brought a paper shredder truck, in an effort to help attendees protect themselves from identity crime. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez stopped by to provide some information about her office to residents.

 West New York

Miller stadium was packed for this year’s National Night Out. A huge fleet of vehicles ranging from police trucks to massive Hudson County SWAT vans were on display for inside looks.

Police, fire, and EMS officials showcased plenty of tactical equipment, and provided ATV-drawn hayrides around the ballpark. There was an abundance of food, music, games, and inflatable bounce houses.

Newly-appointed police director Mark Flores was on the scene to start establishing some face-to-face time with residents. Flores is already a familiar face, as prior to stepping up to the director helm, he was a captain in the WNYPD.

Various nonprofit and advocacy groups were also on hand, including Round 2 Resources, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that commits to environmental friendliness by recycling donated resources and distributing them back into the community. They store and ship virtually anything that can be reused, including furniture, electronics, clothes, and almost anything else, giving things mostly to charitable organizations in need.

For more information on this and other stories go to hudsonreporter.com.