HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Multiple local police departments across Hampton Roads held National Night out events to help brighten community spirits and help strengthen residents’ relationships with local authorities.
National Night Out is a nationwide event that heightens crime and drug prevention awareness, generates support for local anti-crime efforts, strengthens neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and sends a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
People filled Portsmouth City Park for National Night Out, the first time the City of Portsmouth held one large, central event.
Law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, community groups and more filled the park, as families enjoyed food, music, games and more.
“As a law enforcement community, we need the public to be involved in what we’re doing,” said interim Police Chief Stephen Jenkins. “We need them to get re-engaged and to take back their communities and we offer the tools and the resources to get them into that position, but again we have to say enough is enough and that is the purpose of National Night Out.”
Leaders were thrilled by the turnout.
“Unity is in the word community,” said Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover. “We’re excited to bring unity to the City of Portsmouth and work with all of our citizens. So, happy to see the children and families. We’re working to combat crime and all the other things that are negatively impacting our community and there’s no better way to do it than to bring people together and build those relationships and make friends.”
About two hundred people came out to the Huntersville Recreation Center for National Night Out in Norfolk.
Kids had the chance to get backpacks ahead of back to school and even check out some live police demonstrations.
Norfolk Police Department had one of their K-9 units at the event and Harbor Patrol was there with one of their boats.
Stop the Violence Guns Down President Clay Marquez says it’s important for people in the community to interact with officers in a setting like this and he believes events like these are even more important for kids.
“The main thing I’d like to see is the children come out here and enjoy themselves,” said Marquez. “The children are traumatized because what they’re hearing now is gunshots and seeing people shot. [I want them to] see our community in a better light.”
In Newport News, dozens came out to the city’s public libraries. From children playing lawn games, getting their faces painted and riding miniature trains to their parents and grandparents meeting those tasked with keeping Newport News safe.
“[I’m] here for the cops. I love all of them. I love them very much,” said 91-year-old Geneva Burke.
Burke attended National Night Out at Main Street Library with her grandkids.
“They do a great job out here,” said 11-year-old Kylayah Scott.
Mayor McKinley Price and Police Chief Steve Drew told 10 On Your Side they were pleased with Tuesday’s turnout.
“Everybody’s trying to make sure that this city is safe,” said Mayor Price.
The Green Run Home Association is the largest Home Owners Association in Hampton Roads. Since 2007, it has hosted a National Night Out event according to Heidi Daniels, executive director of the association.
The front parking of Green Run High School was full of games, displays from the Virginia Beach Police Department and Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad and a foam pit.
This year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) made a visit following an event sponsored by his Political Action Committee inside the school earlier in the afternoon.
“It’s a great thing for the state. You know, we’ve got a historic problem with violent crime right now and when you see a community come together, and actually recognize… actually recognize that it’s a community that can actually make a difference,” Youngkin said. “Then we passed a budget. We passed a really great set of bills this year and a big budget amendment to provide $400 million more into law enforcement, but it takes a community to make it work and so I’m excited about this.”
Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate was also in attendance.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.