Jersey City community gathers for National Night Out

Police Director Tawana Moody poses at the National Night Out in Audubon Park. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Audubon Park was one of four Jersey City parks that hosted the city’s National Night Out, a series of events organized by the city and the Jersey City Police Department.

Bustling with people, the Aug. 3 event included stalls with community organizations, free barbeque, and a DJ. The mood was casual, with the police dressed in t-shirts, attendees munching on hot dogs and popcorn, an inflatable bounce house for kids, and a massive game truck where kids were playing Mortal Kombat or Just Dance on big TV screens.

An officer hands a burger to a kid during the National Night Out. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The National Night Out events were created in 1984 to help police departments and the communities build positive relationships. They returned for the first time since 2019.

“I just feel like we’re excited about tonight because it helps us continue what we’re doing in bringing the police and the community together,” said Police Director Tawana Moody.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, people coming together after being vaccinated has made a difference. “I love it,” said Melinda Estrada, who with the New Jersey Youth Corps. “I love to see my people congregate and see us still moving forward and look into a brighter future.”

Kids love firetrucks. Photo by Mark Koosau.

William Lance and his wife Tiffany Lance heard about the event through their son’s basketball clinic, where they were handing out flyers. “This is something for [the kids] to do,” William Lance said. “The kids are enjoying it because they’re kids, and it’s just good to see people giving back to the community.”

Tuesday’s event was just one of the many that Moody hopes will improve relationships with the police and the community. In February, she was appointed to lead the department, becoming the first Black woman to take the helm, as well as the first civilian leader.

Moody said it’s very good to learn the role from the other side. “I feel like going out into the community and helping see it from the community standpoint as well,” she said. “Being a civilian has been great for me.”

Police Director Moody wants to do more events in the future. Photo by Mark Koosau.

After a year in which policing has been front and center, events such as these should happen more often, William Lance said.

“I agree,” said Tiffany Lance. “I think we need to have this more often so that the community can come out, it’s for the kids, and less violence.”