YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tuesday night, communities across the country gathered for National Night Out to celebrate their neighborhoods and the first responders that protect them.
The event grows every year and police officers and firefighters say it’s important to foster their relationship with the residents they look out for.
“Little kids, sometimes I’ll overhear parents say, ‘You better be good, police are watching.’ Well, we don’t like that,” said Christina Toth, a parent. “We want kids to know police and fire…they’re the safe people to talk to. When you’re in trouble, that’s who you’re calling for.”
The relationship between the public and the police has, at times, been strained in the national spotlight over the last few years.
National Night Out — which thousands of communities across the country participate in — embraces that relationship, especially with a younger crowd.
“The whole purpose is to let the young people know that we are with them,” said Annie Hall, who organized the event at Youngstown’s Wick Park.
In all, there were five National Night Out events in our area — Austintown, New Middletown, Vienna Township, and two in Youngstown.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally thinks National Night Out is a good thing.
“Anyone in uniform, to a lot of young kids, might be somebody new and the more you can increase interaction, increase friendship, talking amongst people…National Night’s all about that.”
While kids and parents at Wick Park enjoyed Handel’s Ice Cream, over in Austintown, families saw characters from Beauty and the Beast, minions from Despicable Me, and some Marvel superheroes.
But they also met real-life superheroes — firefighters, DARE officers, SWAT team members, and police officers.
One girl said she wanted to see what each of them does to help those in the community.
“I went in the SWAT car and we got to see what they got to put on. We got to put on their helmet and it was really cool.”
Kids walked away knowing who to call when they need help.
This was the 34th year for National Night Out.