Working toward a safer, unified community
Annual National Night Out draws thousands in 160 neighborhoods
In the spirit of neighborliness and trust between law enforcement and the community, numerous neighborhoods and thousands of residents throughout Charles County came together for food, fun, festivities and friendship to celebrate the 33rd annual National Night Out on Tuesday.
For the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, the events success is measured by the long term results and relationships built between the officers and the community.
The importance of the night was not lost on the agency. Officers gathered to kick off the event at the White Plains Moose Lodge, and Sheriff Troy Berry (D) let his officers know what was expected of them and what needed to be done.
The sheriff’s office is a “model for the nation” Berry said, and National Night Out should be a continuation of what they already have done.
“After years of investing in this community, we are now reaping the benefits,” Berry said.
a day of healing for those relationships in the community.
“Relationship building is critical for police, prosecutors, courts and the community coming together,” Covington said.
Throughout the night, sheriff’s office deputies, Maryland State Police troopers, La Plata Town Police, fire and EMS personnel and various county government leaders traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood to show their support for the event.
Bill Wamsley, the community organizer for Pinefield’s National
Today more than any day ever, Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington (D) said, “this event is enormously important.”
Unlike other places around the nation, Charles County has not had incidents where police and the community have clashed. Those clashes around the nation affect the entire criminal justice system, he said, and National Night Out represents Night Out event, said that even though they do not have a moon bounce or a substantial amount of money to fund their event, everyone still comes out, meets others in the community, gets some good food and has a good time.
At Pinefield’s event in Pinefield Park, there were multiple grills set up, a tent where ice cream was served, a corn hole area and Bunky and Blondi the clown were both on site giving children balloons.
“The whole focus is to get people out and meet somebody you haven’t met before and maybe find out things you didn’t know,” Wamsley said. “Now they know we have a [Pinefield Community Association] group, we have a crime solvers group. The fact that you’ve got the sheriff showing up, you’ve got state troopers. That’s what makes people feel safe. You can mingle with law enforcement and they’re not a threat.”
In the Sheffield neighborhood, there was plenty of food for all and families, especially the children who enjoyed themselves by swimming in the pool, played games, blew bubbles and jumped on the moon bounce.
William Estell, who played a big part in setting up for the event, expressed his appreciation for the sheriff’s office.
“My thing is this, the way I raise my kids now in this neighborhood, the police are part of the community,” he said. “And when you see the police department, you shouldn’t be afraid, you shouldn’t run from them. When you see them you should feel safe.”
Estell believes it’s a twoway street when it comes to maintaining a strong relationship with local law enforcement, and citizens have to do their part.
“Where I grew up in the Midwest, the climate is a little different,” he continued. “A lot of the stuff you see on the news, I understand it. I may not agree with it, but I understand the dynamic there. So, coming here [to Charles County], it’s a lot different, and I try among the community to make sure that we keep that relationship with the police department.”
At the Dorchester neighborhood National Night Out, there were fun bounces, rock climbing, a giant inflatable slide and other activities.
Amelia Sims attended with her two sons.
“National Night Out is something I remember from when I was a kid, and it was a night I always looked forward to,” Sims said. “Even though it usually spelled the end of summer, that ‘back-toschool’ was around the corner, it was always such a fun event that I enjoyed, and I want my kids to experience that.”
Her son Ryan Chase, 4, was especially enthusiastic about the event.
“It’s double great,” Ryan said, though he added that he was still waiting to get onto a fire truck.
Chad Muntz, chairman of the Dorchester Neighborhood Association, said National Night Out was a great way for neighbors to get to know each other.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together, get to know your neighbors, get to know each other, and build on that community,” Muntz said. “If people know each other, they’ll look out for each other, they notice things that are going on.”
LaRon Swann Sr. cooked burgers at the Bannister community National Night Out, and stressed the importance of community in fighting crime.
“It’s a great way to get the community together and work together as a team,” Swann said. “I always tell people, if everybody sticks together, crime can’t come in. If everybody’s looking out for each other, crime can’t come in, right?”
The Bannister National Night Out was organized as a combination pool party and cookout.
“It brings the community together out here,” said Officer Ryan McMullen of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a night that everybody can enjoy, and get away from the stress of life. You’ve got nice free food, a pool, it’s great.”
At the Huntington neighborhood National Night Out, there was music, dancing, free food, inflatable bounces and more.
“I’ve lived in this neighborhood since ‘84, and I think it’s a great thing to do every year to get the community together, so we can get to know each other on a daily basis,” said Dee Dee Skidmore.
The La Plata Police Department and La Plata Volunteer Fire Department visited many of the neighborhoods in the town, such as Carroll La Plata Village, La Plata Grande Gardens and King’s Grant. Families, especially children, were able to play on a fire truck and interact with their
local police in a fun, laid back atmosphere.
Janet Wilkins, property manager at Carroll La Plata Village, said at their National Night Out, the neighbors in their community tend to bond together and the event helps make it more of a family community.
“We always do National Night Out. It’s a good time to reflect on the good part of everything happening in the community,” Debbie Rabie, Carroll La Plata Village assistant property manager, said. “People young and old anticipate it every year. The fire truck shows up, McGruff the Crime Dog shows up and La Plata police officers come out and mingle. Then the kids show up with their water guns and water balloons for a big water fight.”
“My son is just so into the firefighters that once he sees them, they are all he can think about,” said Stefany Manley, a Carroll La Plata Village resident. “NNO gives my kids a chance to get to know the firefighters and police officers more and trust them.”
“Being able to meet the local police, especially in these times, shows that they are truly appreciated,” said Danielle Baker, a La Plata resident.
In addition to the fun activities, Charles County Department of Social Services were at National Night Out in Carroll La Plata Village passing out folders, pens, composition notebooks, ruled paper, rulers, pencils, book bags, and information about the agency’s services.
At King’s Grant, La Plata Police Chief Carl Schinner said the La Plata Police Department work hard on a daily basis to keep and deepen the community’s trust. He said his entire department is able to work very closely with the community and business leaders on holistic solutions for crime and quality of life issues.
The Town of Indian Head had a big turnout at the Village Green Pavilion along with food, a live band and special appearances from McGruff and Covington. Mayor Brandon Paulin said he was glad to see that so much of the community came out to interact with one another and the local police department.
“We hope the perception of us changes,” said M/ Cpl. John Freeman of the sheriff’s office. “It’s important for us to get out and help with the perception of law enforcement and show that we’re community oriented. We want the kids to understand that if they need help that they need to go find a guy in the uniform. We try to instill in the community that we are people too and they can come and talk to us, share stories and experiences.”
Jennie Dudley, an Indian Head resident, and her children Calvin, 9, Ryan, 4, and Lia Dudley, 2, were seen passing out homemade “thank you” cards to local residents and gave “Hero cards” to police officers.
“We’ve been handing out hero cards to police officers just to say thank you for what you do, be safe and stay blessed,” Jennie said. “It promotes stopping the hatred, not judging others and spreading the love amongst the community. We also started giving them to the fire departments, EMTs and the military.”
Indian Head police officer Lee Elliot was seen smiling, laughing and enjoying himself at Indian Head’s NNO on Tuesday.
“Trust is the primary thing in a community and it didn’t come overnight,” Elliot said. “It was hard work. It’s still a small town, we wave at each other, help each other when there’s something going on, and we call each other. It’s awesome to have as many relationships in the town that you can have. I help them as much as they help me.”
One hundred and sixty neighborhoods throughout the county participated in this year’s festivities, according to the sheriff’s office, which is two more than last year and two steps closer toward a safer and more unified community.
Khamariah Clark and Phoenix Baskerville jump on an Extreme Air harness bounce at the Dorchester neighborhood National Night Out Tuesday.
Maj. Chris Becker talks with Skylah Brown, 4, as they celebrate National Night Out on Tuesday at the Sheffield neighborhood.
Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington explains the important of community policing to his staff and officers on hand at the National Night Out kickoff in White Plains.
Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry encourages officers to go out and meet new people in the community to build new bridges in community policing at the White Plains National Night Out kickoff. The Bannister neighborhood held a pool party and cookout for National Night Out Tuesday.
Lt. Charly Baker hangs out with Nikki and Nia Connell, 2, at the Gleneagles community clubhouse during National Night Out. STAFF PHOTO BY ANDREW RICHARDSON
Alana “Juicy” Graham, left, plays cornhole “her way” as described by Virgie Williams, right, as she watches over Graham having fun at Pinefield’s National Night Out. STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL SYKES II
STAFF PHOTO BY ANDREW RICHARDSON Charles County Circuit Court Judge James West took part in the festivities held at the Heritage neighborhood for National Night Out.
Heritage neighborhood residents enjoyed a bountiful spread during National Night Out.
Makenzie Mahoney, 3, dances with the Dr. Saul Line Dancers at the Huntington neighborhood’s National Night Out Tuesday.
Children play on a giant inflatable shark at the Dorchester neighborhood National Night Out Tuesday.
On Aug. 2, Carroll La Plata Village residents, Lillyan Coates, 4, and her sister Jada Coates, 3, sitting on the La Plata Fire Department’s fire truck during National Night Out in La Plata.
McGruff the Crime Dog interacted with children and parents at the Indian Head Village Green Pavilion during National Night Out.