The Hopewell Valley community and police officers came together for an evening of fun when National Night Out was underway at Stony Brook Elementary School.
National Night Out on Aug. 3 at the school in Pennington involved pony rides, food, live DJ music, children handling a fire hose, and a chance to dunk an officer in a dunk tank. Children also had the chance to see a Hopewell Township Public Works’ truck, police vehicle and Pennington ambulance.
“This event is incredibly important for both the department and the community. To see such a turnout tonight by the community embracing our law enforcement and department is just great,” Hopewell Township Police Director Robert Karmazin said. “This really does a lot for the officers and the community gets to know us.”
He added that the number one goal for the department is community policing.
“You do that by getting out and talking with and meeting with the community. When you have a relaxed environment like this it is just a great venue,” Karmazin said. “People are comfortable to walk up to officers and talk about some of their needs and concerns. Number one is to have a good time, relax and have a good social event and camaraderie. Anytime you have an issue we are here to serve.”
National Night Out was introduced nationally in 1984 and is an annual community building campaign to make communities safer, according to the National Association of Town Watch. This will be the 38th year of the campaign, which has been held in 400 towns in 23 states.
“It is a great event and something to look forward to every year. I was a little concerned; I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be given the COVID-19 situation,” said Sgt. Joe Maccaquano, coordinator of the event. “I’m glad everyone came out and had a good time. We are part of the community and care about everyone here. It is just a good family day.”
When the planning for the evening event occurred, organizers did so with the mindset that a cancelation could occur if the current COVID-19 situation had turned.
“We put our ducks in a row and everything was fine,” Maccaquano said. “All of Hopewell Valley, it is nice for them to see us in an unofficial capacity instead of calls for service or an emergency situation.”
Hopewell Township Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Local 342 was one of the sponsors for the Hopewell Valley’s National Night Out.
“It is nice to see everyone out together and in the community and all together again. I would love for there to be more community events with the police department,” said Megan Bailey, one of the attendees. “I have been coming to National Night Out for years. Tonight is all about community.”
The school parking lot was filled with vehicles from the police, fire and emergency services throughout the evening, as families enjoyed the many activities, food and music.
“My family and I have been coming to this event for eight to 10 years now. We are thoroughly enjoying getting outside with the kids again,” said Adam Andreski, another attendee of the event. “It is great to get to know our officers and meet them. This is a great connection between the community and local officers.”
The Hopewell Township Police Department was joined by the Pennington Police Department, the Hopewell Valley Emergency Services, the Pennington Fire Company, the Pennington First Aid Squad, the Hopewell Fire Department, the Union Fire Company and Rescue Squad, Department of Public Works, Health Department, Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Hopewell Township Recreation Department.