By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
12:11 p.m. | August 10, 2017
PRINCE GEORGE – For many people, a weekday evening sees them kicking off their shoes and preparing for an evening inside, but that was not the case last Tuesday as dozens of communities stepped outside to build relationships and interact with local law enforcement during this year’s National Night Out event.
In Prince George, National Night Out has become a tradition as the county entered its 15th year of participation in the national initiative as over 30 different block parties were hosted over the course of last Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Scott Park was no exception to the festivities as food from Prince George BBQ was on hand for the dozens of people who gathered at the park just off Courthouse Road, sitting down for a meal and conversation with friends, neighbors, and members of the Prince George Police Department.
Spending time at Scott Park, Prince George Police Chief Keith Early was able to sit down and talk with the residents he and his officers protect and serve on a daily basis during an event he sees as one of the most important aspects of the department’s community policing efforts.
“The mission of National Night Out is [about] getting the community to partner together and neighbors to partner with each other,” he said. “Those two are the most critical parts, neighbors getting to know each other and looking out for one another and making a stand against crime and educating each other.”
Prince George has taken part in nearly half of the National Night Out events since the national initiative began in the early 1980s, joining over 16,000 other communities nationally for the event that aims to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.
As every site across the county kicked off their own individual block parties Tuesday, each received a special message from Early that was read to residents where he explained the importance of the event and the how important the bond between law enforcement and the community at large truly is.
“Your Prince George County Police Department takes great pride in our philosophy of policing ‘as part of our community,’ the letter read. “Please know that we cherish the support that you provide us each and every day.”
Even though the National Night Out initiative is more aimed at enhancing community-law enforcement relations, Early praised the county staff for their efforts to make National Night Out into a wider community event through their hands-on volunteering and participation.
“I think Prince George does a great job getting the whole county team involved,” Early said. “From our Board [of Supervisors], county administrator, and other departments like the Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, they are all involved in National Night Out at different sites volunteering and participating because everything we do in the county, our customer is the citizen.”
In addition to county staff helping out and volunteering their time at the nearly three dozen block parties, Prince George Police had an officer dedicated to every site during Tuesday’s festivities.
While Early notes that a lot of resources are put into making National Night Out a successful event year in and year out, he noted that last Tuesday is only one aspect of Prince George Police’s total effort in the area of community policing.
“It is important to know that this is not a one night a year event, we are always out in the community,” he said. “That is truly how we police here.”
Beyond National Night Out, Early explained there are numerous programs that the department conducts and participates in every day in the county, including neighborhood and business watches, Crime Solvers, the school resource officer program, the department’s community police academy, their faith-based initiative, the TRIAD program aimed at protecting the growing elderly population, and a number of others.
“While this is probably the largest event that we have during the year, which gives us the opportunity to visit a lot of Prince George in one evening, this is just another event in the grand scheme of our community policing efforts,” he said. “National Night Out isn’t just a once-a-year thing for us, we do this every day.”
“Our philosophy for policing is policing is part of our community and I think that is something we do really well, is partnering with the community and all the community activities that we have,” he continued
In total, over 100 different communities in the Commonwealth took part in Tuesday’s National Night Out event, according to the organizer’s website.
To learn more about the programs offered by the Prince George Police Department, visit their website at http://princegeorgeva.org/public_safety/police_department.