BOWIE – As cities across the nation marked the 35th anniversary of National Night Out, Prince George’s County communities chimed in to celebrate a night of music, food, and community in 60 events that were hosted all over the area on Aug. 7. National Night Out serves as an annual community-building event that aims to […]
BOWIE – As cities across the nation marked the 35th anniversary of National Night Out, Prince George’s County communities chimed in to celebrate a night of music, food, and community in 60 events that were hosted all over the area on Aug. 7.
National Night Out serves as an annual community-building event that aims to bond the relationship between residents and local law enforcement in a positive setting, as an effort to promote crime prevention strategies, public safety awareness, and create an all-around safer place for all to live in our county.
“It’s just that relationship building,” stated Lt. Ernest Stanley, Commander of the Investigative Services Division. “We want to see people in positive scenarios before we see them in negative scenarios. So, if we can build a relationship from something like this by throwing a big party, it’s great to see them that way than at a traffic stop or in an emergency or during an accident.”
These events are well-needed, especially during a time when tensions are at an ever high between communities around the nation and their local law enforcement agencies. However, many, like Stanley, believe that positive interaction between the two sides can allow for better cooperation in the future.
“The day-to-day police work that goes on, there’s over 4 million police contacts in this country a day. 4 million,” Stanley said. “When I say police contacts, that means interactions with regular everyday citizens and the police. Over 99% of those interactions are good positive interactions. They aren’t negative interactions.
Of course, when you’re dealing with human beings, nothing is perfect, you’re never going to have a 100% good or bad or anything. But we just want to accentuate that 99%, that 99% of you have good hard-working decent people just wanting to serve their community as police officers, and the more that the public sees that, the better we all are.”
Numerous tents lined around Allen Pond Park who partnered with various local businesses and organizations, providing information about home security measures, preventative personal safety measures, to resources that are available to those that have fallen victim to crimes such as identity theft, homicide, sexual assault, domestic abuse, burglary, etc.
Just one of those tents was manned by the Maryland Crime Victim’s Resource Center (MCVRC), an organization that seeks to “ensure that victims of crime receive justice and are treated with dignity and compassion through comprehensive victim’s rights and services.” This organization can offer many free valuable services to a victim of the crimes listed above, such as court accompaniment and counseling groups.
Victims case manager Delicia St. Hill highlights the importance of visibility of MCVRC during events like NNO.
“It is very important because there are so many victims out here that wear a mask, or they’re scared and not sure who to talk to, not knowing that there are resources, that there are people out there wanting to help you,” states Hill. “We’re here to make that journey as peaceful and filled with understanding.”
Other volunteers were responsible for providing the public with further information on public safety, such as Prince George’s Police Department Crime Scene Investigator Zack Weadock. Weadock was busy informing the public about the many different aspects of the police department, precisely the role of the crime scene investigation division.
“There’s a lot of misinformation through shows, and movies, and stuff like (that) of what actually the field of crime scene investigation is, so a lot of what we’re telling people is basically what our jobs entitle, which is going out to major crime scenes, processing them for physical evidence, documenting them through photography, and making diagrams of the scene, and then collecting evidence to bring back to our unit to process later,” Weadock said.
While promoting women’s Rape Aggression Defense Training classes for the public, Officer Ellise Saunders of the Bowie Police Department emphasized the need for events like NNO.
“It’s a necessity,” said Saunders. “Our citizens, we never want them to become complacent, so them learning different tips on how to protect themselves and then continue that through each generation…We need that.
Not only is NNO an informative and resourceful event that can cater to the needs of the community, but it is also one filled with family fun. Supplied with free food from sponsors such as Mission BBQ, Texas Roadhouse, and Starbucks; and coupled with kid-friendly activities like a moon bounce, making child ID kits, and dunking the Chief of Police into a vat of water, this night symbolizes a tradition that is hoped to be carried on for many years to come.