Work­ing to­ward a safer, uni­fied com­mu­nity

An­nual National Night Out draws thou­sands in 160 neigh­bor­hoods

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU AN­DREW RICHARD­SON MICHAEL SYKES TIF­FANY WAT­SON jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com arichard­son@somd­news.com msykes@somd­news.com twat­son@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Khamariah Clark and Phoenix Baskerville jump on an Ex­treme Air har­ness bounce at the Dorch­ester neigh­bor­hood National Night Out Tues­day.

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Maj. Chris Becker talks with Sky­lah Brown, 4, as they cel­e­brate National Night Out on Tues­day at the Sh­effield neigh­bor­hood.

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL SYKES II

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

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 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.

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Heritage neigh­bor­hood res­i­dents en­joyed a boun­ti­ful spread dur­ing National Night Out.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Maken­zie Ma­honey, 3, dances with the Dr. Saul Line Dancers at the Hunt­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood’s National Night Out Tues­day.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Chil­dren play on a giant in­flat­able shark at the Dorch­ester neigh­bor­hood National Night Out Tues­day.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

McGruff the Crime Dog in­ter­acted with chil­dren and par­ents at the In­dian Head Vil­lage Green Pav­il­ion dur­ing National Night Out.

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