DURYEA — Fire companies, police departments and the National Guard responded to Healey Playground Aug. 11 for an important call.
The public space at 300 Foote Ave. hosted the community’s eighth annual Duryea Night Out from 4 to 8 p.m. that day. The event, organized to introduce residents to their first responders, offered a presentation of the colors by Dupont AMVETS Post 189, refreshments, music, informational displays from a number of community service organizations and the opportunity to get close to equipment used by law enforcement and rescue workers.
Duryea Mayor Keith Moss said the event is a great way to get residents involved in the policing of their neighborhoods.
“It’s important to me because it brings the community together and they are the eyes and ears of the police department,” Moss said.
Moss said Duryea Crime Watch, which meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month at the Duryea Borough Building (315 Main St.), is an integral part of that relationship. The watch is easy to join — simply attend a meeting. To please tipsters who wish to remain anonymous, each is assigned a unique numerical identifier that’s used during official department communications.
Duryea Police Chief Nick Lohman has been a police officer in the borough since 1999, and said he’s seen a marked difference since the implementation of Duryea Night Out.
“I think the residents have seen us as more than just a person in a uniform that’s only arresting people,” Lohman said. “We interact with people; we’re humans, too, and the officers are somebody they can approach at any time and ask questions or report something to. They can feel comfortable that it’s going to be looked into.”
While adults browsed tables with information on dealing with phone scams, abuse and more pressing topics for safety in a modern world, children planned trips to “the smoke house,” which simulates an education experience with a house fire, along with a State Police helicopter parked just behind the event area.
“I’m looking forward to the smoke house,” said RJ Gillette, 9.
When asked if he’d consider going for a ride in the helicopter, his answer was straightforward.
“No,” RJ said, while shaking his head.
His sister Tori, 7, seemed open to the idea.
“I don’t know,” she said, before agreeing that may be better left for next year.
Organizations such as The American Truama Society, Pennsylvania Division and the Attorney General’s Office were on hand as well as the crime watches of Dupont and Avoca.
Dupont Mayor Dan Lello said it’s important for residents to take notice of their surroundings and have an active role in their community’s safety.
“You can’t have your head in the sand anymore,” Lello said. “You’ve got to ask questions.”
Vice President of Avoca Crime Watch Operations Ned Jones said his organization offers a lot of advice to senior citizens about locking doors and spotting suspicious activity.
“It’s all about preventative maintenance,” Jones said.
For Chief Lohman, it’s also about fostering the relationship between peacekeepers and their community — along with the progress events like Duryea Night Out help make towards that goal.
“This is my way to give back to the community in a way that’s not just arresting people,” Lohman said.