DURYEA — National Night Out was in full swing once again at Healey Park on Aug. 8.
The annual event is observed across the country on the first Tuesday of August. It is dedicated to the development and promotion of crime prevention programs, including neighborhood watch groups, law enforcement agencies, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses, civic groups and individuals devoted to safer communities.
This year marks the 32nd year for National Night Out.
Duryea Police Chief Nick Lohman said it is a way to get community residents more acclimated with crime watch organizations and law enforcement officers.
“It’s a community intervention,” he said. “We get the community involved with different demonstrations, have different law enforcement type things and anything to deal with law enforcement to distribute information and do anything to involve the community. It gets citizens together to support us and meet and greet the people of the town on a more personal level.”
Fun activities throughout the afternoon included a parade, police officer demonstrations of tactics used to stop criminals, including a Taser demonstration, a smoke house simulator that teaches children how to escape a smokey building, extinguishing a virtual fire and life flighting.
Students from Rothrock Kung Fu & Tai Chi of Duryea also provided a self defense demonstration.
With the chance for locals to interact with police officers, Lohman wasted little time in interacting with children by playing a pickup game of basketball.
“It’s one of the things I like to do is partake in basketball with the kids,” Lohman said. “Just to be on that level, so the kids know they can trust us if they have a problem, and doing that I think helps them feel more comfortable.”
While the event was hosted in Duryea, Dupont and Avoca boroughs also had crime watch members and police officers on hand.
The three boroughs have united to hold National Night Out for the last three years. Duryea hosted the event by itself six years ago until Dupont joined two years after that.
According to Dupont Crime Watch Secretary Bob Price, Duryea originally held its National Night Out on a Tuesday, but once Dupont joined, the event was switched to a Saturday.
“The event grew once we got involved,” said Price. “We started getting more events and more things for the kids to do. It grew to where there weren’t enough hours in the night to do it, so we started making it a Saturday event to get all the families and everything together and do it all as kind of a half-day event for everybody.”
Since Dupont joined the National Night Out, Price said he has seen significant attendance in the event, and hopes to see it continue.
Avoca Crime Watch President Jim Brogan credits the National Night Out for helping him form the Avoca Crime Watch.
“I was going to start a crime watch from scratch,” Brogan said. “We rounded up some people and decided to start having meetings and I saw a piece in the paper about this National Night Out here in Duryea. I walked in here, didn’t know anybody and I saw the (Avoca) Chief of Police (Dave) Homschek and asked who was in charge and he introduced me to (Dupont Crime Watch President) Pina Hansen and (Duryea Crime Watch President) Trina Moss and they told me to go to one of their meetings. I went to a few of their meetings and I just picked it up.”
With the various activities and demonstrations on hand, all Price wanted was for everyone to have a good time and for the children to be unafraid of their local heroes.
“The biggest advantage with the night out is it gives the kids a chance to see the police and fire department in a different light,” he said. “They’re not the bad guys knocking on your door arresting somebody and breaking in when there’s a fire in the house — they get to see them on a more human level.”