Officers planning Night Out activities

August 02, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Law enforcement officers are going to be all over the county Tuesday seeking out residents.

But instead of issuing citations and serving court papers, they will be hanging out and socializing to celebrate National Night Out Against Crime.

Members of the Washington County Sheriff's Department and local departments such as the Hancock Police Department will celebrate the 21st year of National Night Out Against Crime with cookout and block party-style events late Tuesday afternoon and early Tuesday evening.

Sheriff's Department 1st Sgt. Robert Leatherman said deputies will be attending corresponding events at the Valley Mall in Halfway, Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport and Shafer Memorial Park in Boonsboro, among other events.


The free events are each slated to begin about 6 p.m., Leatherman said.

Leatherman said the event is a good way for deputies and other authorities to meet people without the specter of a negative event hanging over them.

"Any time the community and police can come together and get to know one another, only positive things come of it," Leatherman said. "Most of the time, when a deputy or police officer comes in contact with the community, it's a person's worst moment."

National Night Out, sponsored by the National Town Watch Association, was created more than two decades ago with the objectives of generating support for local anti-crime programs, heightening crime and drug prevention awareness and strengthening neighborhood spirit and local police/community partnerships, the association's Web site said.

The event is celebrated annually on Aug. 3, though some communities, such as Hagerstown, hold their events later in the month. This year, the Bethel Corp. and the Hagerstown Police Department are teaming up to throw a National Night Out block party, but have delayed the date until Aug. 26, Lt. Richard Reynolds said.

Hancock Police Department officer Michael Ruppenkamp said this is the fifth year the Hancock department has been active with its own local events. This year's festivities, starting at 3:30 p.m. at Widmyer Park, include karaoke, volleyball and horseshoe tournaments and the plastic duck race.

Ruppenkamp said being able to interact casually with people, even if just for a few hours, helps many officers with their work in the community over time.

"I think it's a good step toward developing trust between community and police department," he said.

"It benefits us because if people are more comfortable with us, they'll probably be more likely to report a crime or help us solve a crime."

The Herald-Mail Articles