NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s a tradition that began back in 1984. During National Night Out‘s first year, more than 400 communities and 2.5 million people participated in events aimed at fostering better relationships between police and the communities that they protect.
Since then, it has grown to more than 16,000 communities with more than 38 million people taking part.
In New Haven, the Casa Otonal Housing Community has been holding their own National Night Out celebration for 16 years. This year, they expect hundreds of people to attend with games, dancing, music, food, and opportunities to meet and greet with some of New Haven’s first responders.
“It’s supposed to open communication between law enforcement and the community members and bring awareness to violence and safety,” said Ashley Torres Vidal, the Resident Service Coordinator at Casa Otonal.
One of those service members is Charles Crocco. He’s been an EMT with American Medical Response for two and a half years.
“It’s really nice to see the members of the community in a capacity where we aren’t dealing with an emergency. Usually it’s so rushed we don’t get the interaction. This is great. We’re dancing with the kids, we’re getting to meet all sorts of people and it’s really a fun time,” said Crocco.
The event is put together much like a block party. There is a DJ, touch-a truck opportunities, state and local police cars, firefighters, and even the Department of Transportation. Lessons about the various professions are blended with games, food and fun.
“We see the news and we see everything going on with the police in different places, different cities and states. it’s always kind of negative so we do this event so there can be positive light so that the people in this neighborhood and the kids in this neighborhood know that the police are here for them to help them,” said Torres Vidal.