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Community Night Out reconnects Princeton community with local police department

Children climb inflatable obstacle course at Princeton's Community Night Out.

The Princeton Police Department’s longstanding effort to build relationships with the community received a fun boost when “Community Night Out” returned to Witherspoon Street.

Community Night Out was held in the parking lot next to the Community Park Pool at 380 Witherspoon St. on Aug. 2.

In 2021, the annual tradition had been canceled, but this year the community event made its revival once again.

“After COVID-19 … this event means the world to us. Gives us a chance to give back and just try to form relationships,” said Princeton Police Capt. Jon Bucchere. “We want people to takeaway that this is a great community, welcoming community and that we are all here for each other.”

Bucchere said the most enjoyable moment of the event is “absolutely feeding the community.”

“It is critical that we form relationships and that we invest in the community and then they get to know us on a more personal level. This is an opportunity for the whole department to get involved,” he said.

Community Night Out featured Dunk-A-Cop dunk tank, a large inflatable bouncy house, large inflatable fun houses and obstacle courses, food, face painting, ice cream and water ice.

The Princeton Recreation Department provided free admission to the pool for all Princeton residents and attendees.

“Just looking at all of the people here tonight, this has to be one of the most successful Community Night Outs we have had,” Mayor Mark Freda said. “It is just amazing seeing all the groups out here talking with each other and interacting with the public that has shown up.”

Princeton police, Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 130 and the Recreation Department collaborated to organize the Community Night Out.

“People are having a good time and are out seeing each other. This fosters ‘Let’s be nice to each other and enjoy each other’s company’,” Freda said.

Residents were able to meet Princeton’s Engineering Department, First Aid and Rescue Squad, Princeton Fire Department firefighters, Mercer County’s Prosecutors Office, municipal officials and Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety.

They were also able to play games with staff from the Princeton Public Library.

“This is our third or fourth Community Night Out we have attended. We try to make this event every year,” said Princeton resident Lucas Tholens. “I enjoy the community feeling. You see the police officers making your hotdogs and the firemen opening up the water for the children.”

He added that it is great to see neighbors and friends.

With the humid summer heat, officials opened a fire hydrant in the Community Pool parking lot for children to enjoy the feeling of cool water. Some children in bathing suits held plastic firefighter helmets collecting the water that sprayed from the hydrant.

Even a dog followed suit and enjoyed a walk through the water that collected in the parking lot and sprayed over top.

“It is great to see the kids having fun and this event is such a great time. I’m loving it and my daughter enjoys the pool a lot and she had good time,” Sevrine Broxer said.

Families lined up to enjoy water ice and ice cream and examined Princeton Fire Department fire trucks and Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad ambulances.

“I have been to other National Night Outs, but not in Princeton. I used to live in Monroe Township,” Matthew Olszewski said. “Community Night Out is just great and the kids are having fun. They opened the fire hydrants which is keeping the kids cool.”

Large inflatable fun houses and obstacle courses were filled with children competing to complete the course. They climbed, slid and bounced through each course.

“Being out here today is one of the reasons why I moved out here to Princeton. Where we used to live, the community involvement was just not there,” Olszewski said.

“Here people are nice, and you walk by and people say ‘Hi.’ That is the same feeling I get here tonight. People are accepting of everybody, and I hope everyone has fun.”

Princeton’s Community Night Out joined National Night Out events that were taking place across the nation on Aug. 2.

National Night Out was introduced nationally in 1984 and is an annual community building campaign that was created to make communities safer and build trust between communities and their police departments, according to the National Association of Town Watch.

This is the 39th year of the campaign, which has millions of people participate and attend across all 50 states. Local communities either hosted block parties, parades and cookouts to celebrate the community event.

The National Association of Town Watch sponsors the annual nationwide event that is also celebrated in U.S. territories and on military bases worldwide with a goal to establish stronger relationships and camaraderie between officers and the communities they serve.

Princeton police officer falls in dunk tank after youth strikes button with a ball on Aug. 2.
Children take turns going through inflatable fun house in the Community Park Pool parking lot.
Children play under water spraying out from fire hydrant in parking lot near Community Park Pool.
Balloon artist creates figures during Community Night Out on Aug. 2.
Princeton police officers hand out hotdogs to residents and families during Community Night Out.
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