Roy Mercon, photo
ST. ALBANS — Despite the threat of torrential downpours, the 9th annual ‘National Night Out’ in Taylor Park drew a large crowd this year.
Established 31 years ago, National Night Out has grown steadily since 1984. Initially only present in 23 states, the efforts to forge an alliance between local police departments and the communities they serve through family friendly events have made a lasting impact across the country.
For the past nine years, St. Albans has joined with more than 37.8 million people and 16,124 communities from all 50 states, U.S. Territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide, sending a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Offering informational booths and displays from many local agencies, residents could learn about everything from domestic abuse prevention to emergency response teams to the Explorers, a group of young, aspiring police officers.
“It’s a day for people to come together to show their solidarity against crime,” said Lt. Ron Hoague, commander of the uniform division of the St. Albans Police Department and one of the event organizers.
The police department, along with members of the Community Justice Center and Voices Against Violence coordinated this event in order to increase public presence for themselves and other such agencies and create community connections. Having free food and drink prepared by the various emergency response departments did not hurt the attendance of the event, either.
“You can see from the variety of different agencies here that the turnout is pretty impressive,” said Hoague. “It’s a good time for everybody.”
The St. Albans Community Justice Center also had a large presence at this year’s event, showcasing its main effort, the Parallel Justice Program.
The program seeks to assist those directly affected by crime. Connecting victims with supports already in place as well as facilitating dialogue among individuals impacted by crime, this program exists for the purposes of validating these experiences and helping the victims navigate the criminal justice system.
“The Community Justice Center is a restorative Justice Agency,” said Amanda Jacobs, a coordinator with the Community Justice Center. “We work with all sorts of folks in an alternative justice capacity.”
Jacobs said the Community Justice Center has assisted with the coordination of this event for the past five years, and this year was a major success. She says that in addition to the Center’s other responsibilities, they have merged with Court Diversion as a way to provide more a comprehensive justice agency to the community.
At National Night Out next year, she says the group will no longer be known as The Community Justice Center. “We don’t have an official name yet, we’re working on it,” said Jacobs. “But it’s a big development.”
“I think it went well,” said Jacobs. “We lucked out with the rain, or lack of rain, and the turnout was impressive.”
“National Night Out really fosters community between service agencies and the neighbors,” said Chara Vincelette, outreach advocate and educator for Voices Against Violence, a local organization that advocates for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. “As you look around, and see the tents of all the different agencies, it really is about the community and healthy choices, healthy boundaries.”
Hoague said the police department will hold the tenth annual event on the same day next year in Taylor Park.