The Valparaiso Police Department held its 18th annual National Night Out on August 2. This event allows members of the police department to travel to different neighborhoods within the community and connect with the community members.
“National Night Out is a fantastic event. It allows us to get out into our neighborhoods and get to know our citizens on a whole new level,” said Joe Hall, Valparaiso Police Department’s Captain of Support Services. “They get to meet who we are, we get to be in their neighborhoods to see what they want to talk about, and it really is a fun night for us to get to know each other and have conversations.”
National Night out allows neighbors to gather for a block party, ice cream social, or cookout to wait for the police department to arrive. This encourages the neighbors to get to know each other and brings local law enforcement into a more casual, personal environment to get to know the community members. This year, the Valparaiso Police Department visited 11 different neighborhoods.
“It's amazing because a lot of these are hosted by families, organizations, or groups within the communities. Each one of them has its special little touch to it. They either have an ice cream social, a block party, cookout, or a grill, and each one of them kind of has that one thing that's special to them,” Hall said. “When they come together and when we get there, it really is a great moment to get out and see that crowd and see that support that the community has.”
Community members attending these neighborhood get-togethers had excited smiles on their faces as they began to hear the sirens and see the red and blue lights approach them. Betty Stralnic, a community member from Meridian Woods, explained that she looks forward to this exciting event all year.
“Something is exciting about seeing all of these officers come in. To me, it's one of the highlights of things we do because we appreciate them so much and all that they do on our behalf all through the city. I look forward to it,” Stralnic said. “I think it’s really nice because then you get some one-on-one time. You get to talk to them and know them as people.”
The opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with local law enforcement officials allows community members to form relationships with and trust the people keeping their city safe. Valparaiso Chief of Police, Jeff Balon, explained National Night Out is an event that allows people of all ages to form these relationships and is a great way to create trust between children and law enforcement.
“It builds that relationship with the kids. The kids see us in uniform, they see us with the loud squad cars and the lights on, and I think it really kind of helps build that trust that they have in us, especially when we're out here, giving them hats or badges or stickers,” Balon said. “I can say one of the biggest things that I believe in police work is building those relationships with the community. This is one of the biggest events that we have. It's a great thing.”
The safety of the community relies not only on the law enforcement officials but on the community members as well. The trust and support community members show towards law enforcement only make the City of Valparaiso a safer place.
“I want to thank our community for the continued support and the partnership that they give the Valparaiso Police Department. We depend on them to help our community stay safe, working together to have the great community that we do,” Hall said.
For more information regarding the City of Valparaiso, visit ci.valparaiso.in.us.