North Bergen threw a block party, and thousands came out for it.
Well, actually it was three block parties, and all under the banner of one very important evening: Night Out Against Crime.
The event was founded 30 years ago as a way for citizens to not only fight back against crime, but also to forge relationships with their local police departments and engender a sense of trust with each other.
North Bergen has taken a stance that this observance is an important one, as is its community policing throughout the year. Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the members of the North Bergen Police Department say they feel this event is pivotal to maintaining good relationships with residents and helping to deter crime.
An annual tradition
“National Night Out is an annual tradition that gives North Bergen residents a chance to meet members of the North Bergen Police Department in a fun, casual setting,” said township spokesman Philip Swibinski. “The goal of the program is to foster a stronger partnership between the residents and the police and to build the trust in the community necessary for the police to more effectively do their job keeping North Bergen safe.”
Sacco said about 50 police officers volunteered their time for the event, and that was not counting many of those working who would have volunteered, had they been off.
“It connects us with the community.” – Sgt. Anthony Caramucci
“We’re just trying to introduce parents and kids to the positive side of law enforcement,” said Police Chief Robert Dowd.
The three community block party locations in the township, all open from 6 p.m. and at least until 9 p.m., were: Grand Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets, the Lawlor Senior Citizen Building, 6121-6131 Grand Ave., and Broadway between 73rd and 76th streets.
All North Bergen residents were invited to attend, and the event was free of charge at all locations. Broadway was the largest celebration, with thousands of residents in attendance. All three places featured free food and beverages, rides and games for children, music, performances, and giveaways.
Businessman Edward Latour, owner of Latour’s Deli, has sponsored the Grand Avenue site for about 10 years, donating food for the Night Out party held on the block outside his store.
“It makes me feel happy that we’re able to help some people along the way,” Latour said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help people. It’s neighbor helping neighbor – and that’s what it’s all about.”
Even though they had already eaten, Bill Van Clief and his daughter Kristen were at the Grand Avenue Night Out celebration.
“We came to support the police,” he said. “To let them know we’re happy they’re doing this.”
Raffles and donations
Two bicycles were raffled off at each location. They were donated by the Target and Wal-Mart stores in North Bergen. In addition, Target employees attended the event and volunteered their time.
City officials said that Pat La Frieda Meat Purveyors on Tonnelle Avenue also donated hamburgers and hot dogs to the celebration. Diamond Auto Body contributed soda and water.
During the evening, police officers distributed free copies of North Bergen’s Community Resource Program, a guide with important municipal and county information, as well as crime prevention and safety tips.
Making a connection
The police officers at the celebration thought it is well worth the effort.
“It’s good. It connects us with the community,” said Sgt. Anthony Caramucci. “It lets people approach us in a friendly environment. It’s just communicating with the people on a regular basis.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.