PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Law enforcement agencies from across the region and country took part in National Night Out on Tuesday night.
It’s an annual event held by law enforcement with food, games and more to help break down barriers and build trust with the community.
Events were held throughout Tidewater and northeastern North Carolina, including in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News.
Tonight’s National Night Out was a call to be on the right side of good, and if you know something, say something, and help make the community a safer place to live.
They want a safer community for little angels like Bri’Anna Harper, who gave a big rendition to the Star Spangled Banner.
Bilal Muhammad with Stop the Violence says residents must talk to police, so they can be better protected by police. “We have to bridge that gap, because we have to establish better communication lines between the people living in the community and police there to protect them.”
Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone led the chant of “Guns down, no smoke, no tears.”
He talked about the authentic relationships with the community. “When things go bad, we will have citizens willing to give us information, so that we can make an arrest or solve a crime.”
Chief Boone told the story of two teens killed. No one was talking until finally someone did, helping to solve the double murder.
Norfolk Police start children young in the Jr. Police Officer Program.
Cadet Tyshaun Bonner is proud to wear the hat and badge. “I like it because I want to be a police officer when I grow up.” His mom talks about how excited her son was this morning to graduate from the cadets.
“I feel like it will be an honor to do something like that, to serve his community, that would be awesome,” says Thelma Booner.
The night included very aggressive training with K-9s, and the Army National Guard unloaded an obstacle course.
The night featured a lot of fun, food and critically important messages.
“Regardless of that no snitching policy, we must stand up for what’s right.” Muhmmad said. “The right side, the side that is more sacred. What is more important for the protection of the community and residents in the community.”
Smiles shined across the city as the Portsmouth Police Department kicked off their biggest National Night Out yet.
“We want to build the trust in that relationship, this is just one night for us to come to your neighborhood where you feel safe and let you know we are here for you 24 hours a day,” said Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene.
Among the crowd at the kick off location, Douglas Park, were local law enforcement officers, city council members, Mayor John Rowe and McGrug the Safety Pup.
“The best way to prevent crime is to do that, prevent crime and you do that with these partnerships,” Rowe said.
Last year Portsmouth held had 19 events, and this year they grew it even bigger, for a total of 23 across the city.
Community members say this creates a positive atmosphere with the police that’s needed.
“Some people just see them when something happens, and it’s crime, but when it’s an event like this the police get to know the people in the community and they get to know them,” said community member Barbara Wilder.
While this was the first National Night Out for Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene, she says she only hopes it gets bigger and bigger in the future.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to hit every single neighborhood in the city of Portsmouth, hopefully on the national night out we’ll have the whole city rocking,” Greene said.
Newport News Police spent Tuesday evening making stops at more than two dozen block parties to join residents in the fight against crime for National Night Out.
This year, there was common theme at those parties: getting the youth engaged for a better tomorrow.
From cornhole to water balloon fights, with each toss, officers made a connection and the community made a change.
“I look around and I see the conversations and the smiles and the interactions and that is what is important,” said Chief Steve Drew.
Drew celebrated his second National Night Out as head of the Newport News Police Department, but this year, recent cases highlighted the night’s significance.
“We had a couple bad incidents happen over the last couple of weeks. I want people to know they can stand up and take a fight against crime,” Drew said.
Over the last several weeks, police worked multiple homicides, two of those cases involving teenagers.
On Tuesday, the community focused on the youth saying events like National Night Out can be life-changing for their future.
“We have a lot of violence that transpires in this community so giving people an opportunity to engage in a positive environment with our local law enforcement has been huge and critical actually for our growth,” said Cameron Bertrand, CEO of the organization Violence Intervention and Prevention.
“We don’t want our children just to see them when they’re arresting someone,” said Yugonda Sample-Jones. “We want them to see them in a positive aspect and maybe encourage the next child to become an officer.”
One child at a block party said that’s the plan for his future.
“I want to be a police officer when I grow up so I can get violence out of the way,” the young boy said.
If you ask Chief Drew, that’s mission accomplished.
“I want them to have trust in this police department,” Drew said. “I want our officers to know that they can interact with the community, and I want the youth of this community to know they matter to me.”
Drew said crime is down in the city and this year’s turnout was bigger than the last. He’s says there’s still work to do but those are good signs that the department is making strides in the community.