ST. ALBANS — Despite the threat of torrential downpours, the 8th annual ‘National Night Out’ in Taylor Park drew a large crowd this year.
Established 30 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 eight 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 cooked 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 their main effort, the Parallel Justice Program.
The Parallel Justice 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 Parallel Justice Program supports victims of crime,” said Marc Wennberg, director of the Community Justice Center. “We get all of our referrals from the St. Albans PD, and were just starting to reach out to other police departments from across the county.”
Wennberg said the Community Justice Center has assisted with the coordination of this event for the past four years, and this year was a major success.
“I think it went well,” said Wennberg. “We lucked out with the rain, or lack of rain, and the turnout was impressive.”
“National Night Out is a great way to build community,” said Amanda Rohdenburg, outreach advocate and educator for Voices Against Violence, a local organization, which advocates for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. “It’s a really good way for folks in the community to learn what resources are out there for them. All kinds of different agencies are here, giving loads of helpful information.”
If you missed this year’s event, Hoague says his department will hold the event on the same day next year in Taylor Park.