Williamsport – Exposing kids to police and first responders early, especially in a casual setting, can make them more comfortable with law enforcement later in life and improve community relationships overall. These are some of the the goals of the National Night Out events that will take place on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at various local municipalities.
“Obviously, if the kids are comfortable with the police, you can build those relationships early,” said Officer Tyler Bierly of Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department, who helped plan Jersey Shore’s first National Night Out event. Studies have shown that exposure at a young age helps improve relationships with law enforcement, Bierly said. “It shows them that the police aren’t scary,”
The Jersey Shore event will take place from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jersey Shore Pool Complex, 410 Thompson Street. The event will feature lots of children’s activities, including bounce houses, a Race the First Responders race, a puppet show by Lycoming County Sheriff’s Department’s Deputy Phil and open swimming. Both police and fire department personnel will show children equipment, including an aerial truck from the local fire department. The fire department also will have a smokehouse, which is a trailer with simulated smoke. Children will see what it’s like to walk through a smoke-filled room, Bierly said. A number of other agencies, including Jersey Shore Elks Drug Awareness Program, Pennsylvania National Guard and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will have demonstrations. Jersey Shore Branch YMCA also is providing children’s activities. Jersey Shore Kiwanis will distribute child ID kits. Bierly is hoping for a good turnout for the event. “I’m excited about it,” he said.
Montoursville Borough is holding National Night Out from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Montoursville Fire Department, 821 Broad Street. “People can go in and talk to a police officer in a casual setting. You’re hoping that it can get them to build a relationship between the community and local law enforcement,” said Steve Bagwell, Mayor of Montoursville.
Officers and fire department personnel will be on hand to show attendees and their children how the vehicles and equipment works. Bagwell pointed out that people are often afraid to call the police because they think the incident they are calling about would be seen as “stupid.” But when a person brings their child to an event such as National Night Out and a police officer is in uniform showing their child how the lights work on the car, it makes them realize the officers are human too. “It gives them an opportunity to see the police officer as a real human being.” Bagwell added that the event is “very positive” for the community. As with all other National Night Out events, there will be free food. Walmart is donating the food, Bagwell said.
Montgomery Borough also is holding National Night Out from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Montgomery Fire Company carnival grounds. “We use this event to help introduce the community to police, fire, EMS, ambulance and other emergency departments that they would not normally have the opportunity to see or meet up close with(out) having an emergency,” said Montgomery Mayor Sean Leet. Life Flight will land at 7 p.m. Community vendors will be present. Montgomery Historical Society will be there to talk about Police Chief Henry Hand. “He was the first (and only) Officer killed while in the line of duty for Montgomery Borough Police Department,” Leet said.
One new concept for local National Night Out events this year is the faith-based groups holding their own events. Several churches through United Churches of Lycoming County planned events with free food and children’s activities.
St. Joseph the Work Parish is hosting their first event this year in conjunction with Love Unlimited Ministries, which is next door. The parking lot at 720 W. Fourth Street will be used for the outdoor festivities from 4 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“This is the first time either of us has hosted. We’re always looking for a way to do outreach,” said Lauren Cooley, stewardship coordinator at St. Joseph the Worker.
Officers from Williamsport Bureau of Fire and Williamsport Bureau of Police will be there with vehicles and equipment to show to children. Free food, including watermelon, hot dogs, freeze pops and beverages, will be available. For the kids, there will be a bounce house obstacle course, hula hoops, double Dutch jump ropes, coloring and face painting. The movie Coco will shown outside at dusk. Free haircuts also will be offered.
“We thought we would get to know our neighbors and also the people in the neighborhood,” Cooley said.
Other goals of the National Night Out events are to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness. Organizers hope to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. The National Night Out event was started in 1984 by the National Town Watch Group. Today, millions of municipalities hold the event on the first Tuesday of August. Most, including the local events, are funded by donations from community partners.
Here is a list of other National Night Out events in the region:
Lewisburg National Night Out, 5 to 9 p.m. Lewisburg Area Recreational Park, North 15th and Saint Mary streets. The event will have more than 100 vendors, live music, open swim, pony rides, a petting zoo, hot air balloon rides and fireworks starting at 9 p.m. A bike raffle will be held at 8:30 p.m. Officers from Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Department and William Cameron Fire Department will show equipment and vehicles.
Old Lycoming Township National Night Out will be held at two locations at 6 to 8 p.m. -- at Old Lycoming Township Municipal Building and Fairlawn Community Church, 353 Pleasant Hill Road, in Cogan Station.
South Williamsport National Night Out, 7 to 9 p.m. at South Williamsport Fire Department, 573 Hastings Street.
Tioga County National Night Out, 6 to 9 p.m. at Mansfield University, hosted by Tioga County Sheriff’s Office.
2019 Snyder County Night Out, 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday August 13 at East Snyder Park, 875 University Avenue, Selinsgrove. Sponsored by Snyder County Coalition for Kids. Rain date Aug. 14.
Sunbury National Night Out, 5 to 8 p.m. at Cameron Park, Market Street.
Watsontown National Night Out, 6 to 8 p.m. at Warrior Run Area Fire Department, 1125 Main Street.
Berwick National Night Out, 6 to 8 p.m. at Jackson Mansion, 344 N. Market St.
Bloomsburg National Night Out, 6 to 8 p.m. at Bloomsburg Airport, 301 Airport Road. Attendees will enjoy a S.W.A.T. display, the chance to explore a fire truck, information about bike and car seat safety, plus games, giveaways, and refreshments.
New Covenant United Church of Christ, 6 to 8 p.m., at 202 E. Third St., Williamsport. (Use Church Street due to construction). Sharing watermelon.
Trinity Gospel Church and the Neighborhood Watch, 6 to 8 p.m. at 1020 Elmira Street, Williamsport. Neighborhood picture scavenger hunt with ice cream afterward.
Trinity Episcopal Church, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., 844 W. Fourth Street, Williamsport. Open house of the Shotokan Karate of Williamsport to observe their training and participate if desired.
Williamsport Bike Commission, Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Avenue. Bicycle lights for $5.