Crowds of area residents turned out to learn about crime prevention and meet law enforcement officers at National Night Out celebrations in Hagerstown and Smithsburg Tuesday night.
Law enforcement officers and attendees said Hagerstown’s event was more popular than last year’s, in part due to cooler temperatures.
National Night Out was held as a partnership between the city of Hagerstown and the Hagerstown Police Department, and was sponsored by Target, according to Pete Moreno, Target logistics executive team leader. Moreno said he was impressed by Tuesday’s turnout, which he expected would reach 1,400 people before the night ended.
“I think that the community needs to understand the police department can’t do it by themselves, and that it’s safe to reach out and form the partnerships that’ll make our communities grow and be safe, ” Moreno said.
At Fairgrounds Park, kids played on an inflatable bounce, residents lined up to watch a police K-9 demonstration and many community organizations set up tables containing information about themselves.
At his second Hagerstown National Night Out, Lt. John Chance of the Hagerstown Auxiliary Police said he saw a heightened interest in crime prevention this year, as well as a greater attendance in general.
“Last year was my first year. The weather was hot last year,” he said. “This year, there was better turnout, a lot more interested people. A lot of people want to get involved; there was more community effort this year.”
Hagerstown resident Barb Smith came out to Fairgrounds Park with several of her grandchildren to enjoy the weather and activities.
Smith said she believes it is important for law enforcement organizations to hold events where the public can connect with police.
Her granddaughter, 4-year-old Katie Brigham, said she had fun playing on the playground and also learned a bit about safety.
“You should always hold adults’ hands when you cross the street,” she said.
Katie said she also learned what to do if she caught in a fire.
In Smithsburg Tuesday evening, organizers of National Night Out in Veterans Park had enough pork barbecue, hot dogs, corn on the cob and cupcakes to feed up to about 300 people, said Smithsburg Police Chief George Knight.
Although the program included crime-prevention tips and help from medical providers on how to make homes safe, among other more serious issues, organizers also focused on fun for kids.
There was an inflatable slide and an inflatable house that kids could jump around in, and the Hurricane Force monster truck and a military truck were on display.
“We kind of take over (for the kids) and let the adults have a good meal,” Knight said.
John Worden of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was expected to talk to the crowd about gang activity in the county and how parents can steer their children away from the groups.
If it did not have any emergencies to respond to, a medevac helicopter from Martinsburg, W.Va., was expected to land at the park at about 6 p.m., said James Ulrich of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Inc.
Ulrich said his department was also showing off a new cardiopulmonary resuscitation machine that can administer CPR with more precision than a person.
The rescue squad was also distributing refrigerator cards that people with certain medical conditions can use. People can fill out the card and stick it on a refrigerator so the information is handy for rescue crews in case they have to respond to the house, Ulrich said.