When K-9 Luto of the Newark Police Department was let loose from his leash Tuesday evening, there was a crowd watching. The same crowd watched when Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company tore the roof from a vehicle using the Jaws of Life.
The demonstrations were part of Newark’s annual National Night Out, an event meant to bring the community and its first responders together for a night to prevent crime and foster ties between law enforcement and residents.
The Academy Street event was part of a nationwide effort that began in 1981 and now involves more than 16,000 communities.
“We love opportunities like this to inform the community of our service,” Jeff Sands, a deputy chief for Aetna, said after the jaws of life demonstration. “We love getting to talk with the kids. It’s a great event Newark Police puts on.”
Now in its fifth year, the event saw its highest level of community participation, said Master Cpl. William Smith, who organized the event this year.
Lt. Andrew Rubin, a spokesman for the NPD, said that within an hour, they had already given away all 500 hotdogs.
“Newark’s National Night Out had an old-time community feel,” Smith said. “The response we get from the community is growing. People get to enjoy the amenities of summer in their backyard.”
Attendees had a chance to buy food from Chickie’s and Pete’s and ice cream from UDairy Creamery. The event also included face painting and balloon animals.
Maddy Greigg, 10, said that her grandfather, a veteran, thought it would be fun to come out and see what was going on.
For her, it was a neat experience to see the officers in this way.
“When I grow up, I want to be a police officer,” she said as she was writing a thank-you note to first responders. “I like how they protect the country. They’re really nice, too.”
Jen Hamilton was watching over her children as they wrote thank-you notes. Her youngest, a 6-year-old, loves police cars, she noted. Her oldest is in school to become a police officer.
“I don’t think the officers always get the recognition they deserve,” she said. “They need to know people appreciate them. Rather than see the bad things, this allows people to get to know them and not be afraid.”
Lamont McGriff decided to bring his children – Makayla, 7, Lamont, 6, and Reign, 1 – as a chance to do something fun during the summer.
“I’m trying to get the kids out to see the community. Everyone is friendly; there’s a lot of positive people,” McGriff said.
Makayla and Lamont agreed that the food and the balloon animals were a highlight.
“It’s fun being around a lot of people,” Makayla noted.
“It was very enjoyable. I appreciate it,” McGriff added. “It shines a different light on the police officers.”
The first responders agreed that it was a nice chance to meet people in a non-crisis situation.
“This is a chance for the public to meet us when they’re not calling for assistance, and to see our human side, to see us in a non-emergency capacity,” Rubin said.
He added that through the different activities, the community had a chance to see some of the behind-the-scenes work, like the dispatchers, forensics investigators and crisis negotiation officers.
“Just as much as they think it’s important to meet us, we enjoy meeting them and answering questions,” he said.