Across Chesterfield, residents came together Tuesday for the 40th National Night Out, an annual event that promotes community-police partnerships to make our neighborhoods safer.
National Night Out was launched in August 1984 through a network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic organizations, state and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the U.S. The inaugural event involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states.
It since has expanded to thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide. Every year on the first Tuesday of August, neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars and exhibits, youth events and visits from first responders.
“National Night Out is one of an array of opportunities we enjoy to share in relationship-building with the neighbors we serve,” said Col. Jeffrey Katz, chief of the Chesterfield Police Department.
“I’m thankful to all of the communities who host these block parties and for our staff who coordinates this event every year,” he added. “Many don’t realize it, but Chesterfield ranks among the top 10 of America’s large police agencies for participation in our NNO event. That’s a credit to the entire community and it’s realized in the support we receive each day.”
More than 100 parties were held in Chesterfield this year, including five at public facilities: Bensley Park, Ettrick Park, Meadowdale Library, Rockwood Park and the Stonebridge Recreation Center.
While most parties take place in the evening, the Stonebridge event was held during the afternoon and attracted a sizable contingent of seniors who regularly participate in Parks and Recreation classes at the facility. It was standing room only in the large conference room as singer Brad Spivey performed a series of country hits.
“If you’re sitting at home doing nothing, why not come out and meet some people?” said Rashmi Amin, who lives nearby and usually comes with his wife twice a week for exercise and other programs.
To Jetaun Bledsoe, a first-time National Night Out participant, the opportunity for fellowship was a “breath of fresh air” after such gatherings were curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a chance to get the whole community involved, people of all cultures coming together, and that’s very much needed right now,” she added.
There was a festive vibe at the county-sponsored parties, with a DJ, bounce houses, face-painting and various other kid-friendly entertainment, as well as free food, drinks and Kona Ice – and even an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog.
Attendees also interacted with representatives of Chesterfield’s public safety agencies – police, Fire/EMS and sheriff – and picked up information about available resources from county agencies and local partners at information booths.
Calvin Richards, whose father worked as a police officer and sheriff’s deputy, attended the party at Bensley Park with his wife. They spent several minutes talking with a county police officer and left with some souvenirs.
“I think police should be recognized for all the good they do. Don’t always believe what you see on TV and look at them in a negative way,” Richards said. “They’re human like we are, but they put their lives on the line every day.”