Theresa Flim and her family have lived in Lawrence Township for seven years, but had never attended the township’s annual National Night Out celebration, until this week.
“I think it’s awesome,” Flim said, as she held her 5-month-old twins, Ace and Aria, in her arms. She was sitting at a picnic table on the front lawn of the municipal building on the evening of Aug. 7.
“I always heard about it. I like the community events Lawrence has. I love mingling with the community. My daughter, Ava, sees her friends from school, and there is the camaraderie,” Flim said.
Ava, who is a sixth-grader at the Lawrence Intermediate School, chimed in and said she likes all of the activities and games for children. It’s not just sitting around and talking, she said.
Ava had a chance to explore a fire truck, compliments of the Lawrence Road Fire Co., and a Lawrence Township Police Department patrol car that was parked on the lawn with its doors open. Children were drawn to the police car like a magnet.
The goal of National Night Out, which is held in cities and towns across the United States on the first Tuesday in August, is intended to forge a bond between local police and the residents they serve so they can fight crime.
“It’s getting bigger and better every year,” Lawrence Police Capt. Brian Caloiaro said of the event.
The police officers like it because it allows them to have a chance to give back to the community, Caloiaro said.
Caloiaro recalled the first few National Night Out events in Lawrence Township. They were small scale affairs, held in different neighborhoods across the township so residents could meet police officers one-on-one.
For many years, National Night Out was held at the Eggerts Crossing Village residential development on Johnson Avenue. Officials eventually decided to move the event to the front lawn at the municipal building where it could spread out.
And spread out it has, from several dozen tables set up by community groups, to inflatable bouncy slides and a rock climbing wall, where the climbers are helped by New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers.
Cub Scouts, youth sports groups, the Lawrence Township Education Foundation, the League of Women Voters Lawrence chapter and the Lawrence Township Municipal Alliance on Drug and Alcohol Abuse were among the groups handing out informational brochures.
Lawrence Township police officers put the police department’s K-9 dogs through their paces, demonstrating how the dogs will clamp their teeth onto bad guys and take them down.
And of course, there was plenty of food, hamburgers and hot dogs grilled by police officers, plus watermelon, water ice, pizza and corn on the cob.