By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Aug. 1, 2019) Community members of all ages can anticipate an evening of food, games and music with the Berlin Police Department during National Night Out next Tuesday.
“This is not a kids’ event, and it’s far from it, it’s a family-fun event,” said Chief Arnold Downing.
Members of the Berlin Police Department will join hundreds of officers nationwide who using the occasion to focus on fostering the relationships between law enforcement and the public.
Berlin’s National Night Out will take place from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday at Dr. William Henry Park on Flower Street in Berlin.
Ofc. Claude Holland, of the Berlin Police Department, said the event took roughly six months to organize. He’s been leading the charge for the past 15 years, and said “it gets bigger and better each” time.
“We’re really there to let them know that we care about everyone,” Holland said.
He also stressed the importance of putting a face to the uniform so residents “realize that we’re not the bad guys.”
We’re people just like them,” he said.
Nationally, the event has sponsors such as Pepsi, Herr’s and The Home Depot, Holland said. Locally, several area churches, the Berlin Park Commission and Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services will have stations during the event.
Mary Bohlen, Berlin’s administrative services director, said the town’s parks commission will offer participants a craft activity that will allow them to make a butterfly or a crab. There will also be a purple tablecloth present to show support for Worcester Goes Purple, a countywide movement, to prevent substance abuse.
Additionally, Tiffany Scott, youth programs coordinator, said Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, would offer relay race-type games that will involve residents as well as members of the police department.
Downing said the police department is giving away four bicycles.
Downing added upwards of 3,000 people reportedly attended the event in the past, but the average crowd is about 1,000.
“They’ll come, eat, go ahead and work with The Home Depot booth, and make a bird house, and go ahead and leave,” Downing said.
Berlin has participated in National Night Out for nearly 20 years. It stems from a government initiative promoted by former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who served from 1995-2003. Townsend provided grant funding to agencies to hold these events. However, Downing said once she was replaced as lieutenant governor, the police department stopped receiving funding for the event.
However, Downing realized that it didn’t take much to bring the community together. The department was able to work with other groups to help bring in food and entertainment.
“After that, without any money, we actually started having better programs,” Downing said.
With or without money, however, the results have been positive and the community has embraced the effort, Down- ing said.
“I remember times where it wasn’t like that, and again we didn’t have cooperation of the people, we had to go ahead and work a lot harder at our jobs because we weren’t getting cooperation,” he said.
But now, the connection is solid, Downing said.
“I’ve been here 28 years, so I think we’re at an apex. I think we’re at a high point.”