By Sarah Baer
Findlay’s annual National Night Out has inspired other departments to up their game with community relations as they have seen the success of Findlay’s event and now host their own.
The National Night Out is an annual event that is held across the Country to promote police-community partnerships to make neighborhoods safer, according to the National Night Out website.
The event began in 1984 and is held annually on the first Tuesday of August.
Findlay’s Police Department decided to get involved in the event 10 years ago “to help police/community relations and bring about an awareness of law enforcement programs in the community,” said Officer Brian White of the Findlay Police Department.
“Initially it was officers and their cars showing young people what we do with our equipment,” said White. “For the past two years, though we’ve had mascot games for the kids, bounce houses, food, entertainment and have several community organizations present to provide information on what they do. A big attraction is our K-9 demo, and vehicle extrication demo.”
Not only has this event inspired Findlay’s community to attend but has allowed smaller departments and their communities to come and share in the fun, knowledge and to get to know their local officers on a personal level.
“What people don’t often think about is that we are ordinary people with families who like to have fun and interact with kids, the same as anyone else. So, this gives us the opportunity to show that side,” said White.
Police Departments like McComb and Bluffton first attended Findlay’s National Night Out event for years before starting their own National Night Out in their hometown.
“We liked the interaction with the public and the ability to answer questions or explain our jobs to the public. But what we did find is that only a hand full of our community members made it to the Findlay event. So, when I took over as Police Chief we went to a few more of Findlay’s National Night Out event and then decide to host our own in McComb so more of our community members would attend,” Stated McComb Police Chief Gregory Smith.
Even though the National Night Out event is a fun night for all, it does have a mission to (1) Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, (2) Generate support for local anti-crime programs, (3) Promote neighborhood pride and police-community partnerships, and (4) Send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Each department fulfills these goals in various ways, through various supporting agencies that attend.
“National Night Out began as a symbolic gesture to criminals that neighborhoods were fighting back, which is why neighborhoods are encouraged to leave a light on. This again serves as a symbolic message for this purpose, however the presence of numerous law enforcement agencies and the public together further strengthens our message to criminals,” White said.
Findlay’s success of community crime awareness and prevention is working. White stated, “Community members are an extension of our eyes and ears and provide us with valuable information to help combat crime.”
As Ohio exceeds the nation’s averages of crime in categories of property crimes, larceny/theft, burglary, and robbery according to city rating, Findlay has decreased these crimes in 2017 per their annual report.
The community has taking action in Findlay neighborhoods, as the calls of service have increased this year by 1,813. The number of calls for service for 2017 totaled 33,883 while in 2016 the total was 32,070.
Part of National Night Out and the philosophy of community-policing is getting the public to trust officers and making them feel comfortable calling on them for any questions or concerns.
The Findlay Police Department relies on its community and promotes to other departments the importance of community policing.
“Policing for the 21st Century is dependent on police/community relations,” stated White. “Without the community our job is infinitely more difficult. National Night Out is one avenue that agencies can utilize to further develop this relationship.”