LANCASTER, Pa. --- Since 1984, the "National Night Out" has aimed to build communities and strength relationships with police departments and other first responders.
On Tuesday night, about a dozen events were set up all over the city in observance of the national campaign.
One such site was near St. Joseph Church on the 400 block of St. Joseph Road on Cherry Hill.
Activities included a bounce house, food, face painting and even school supplies were provided to children and their families.
Loretta Pagan-Crespo, community connector for "SoWe Lancaster," said each year, they strive to provide families with a safe and fun night out.
Part of their goals, she said, is to build connections between neighbors, as well as first responders, in a positive environment.
“You’re going to have fun, you’re going to meet new people and if you didn’t meet a new person, shake the hand of someone besides you. Say ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ and ‘My name is this’ and let’s start uniting so we can drop all these barriers of the crime and we can watch out what’s happening in our neighborhood negative then we can inform our police officers because they do want to help,” said Pagan-Crespo.
Lt. Bill Hickey with the Lancaster City Bureau of Police said the National Night Out is not only essential for helping them build community partnerships, but also neighbor-to-neighbor camaraderie.
He said the whole city gives people the chance to meet neighbors and see different cultures, all within the same area.
“It’s a different connection as opposed to that just passing nod or wave. It’s you get to know somebody’s name, you get to know their families and their history and their story. That connection between neighbors just makes everything better in the neighborhood," said Lt. Hickey.
Robin Thomas, a resident of Lancaster for 18 years, called the event "awesome" for bringing the community together.
She said it helps people in her neighborhood get to know each other, homeowners and tenants alike.
With a new school year approaching, she believes this event shows the need for parents to be involved with their children.
“it goes farther than just your community. Your community is your schools, your churches, your playgrounds, you know, your community Boys and Girls clubs, all those places. We need not think that they’re babysitters, we need to get involved and help raise our children," said Thomas.
All of the events for the National Night Out are hosted and organized by local community groups.
Lt. Hickey said first responders and city leaders are "guests" who are invited to enjoy the night together.