Thousands meet local law enforcement, neighbors at National Night Out

Posted at 10:33 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 22:33:04-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Tuesday marks National Night Out, and across the country millions of people got outside to meet their local law enforcement officers and neighbors.

Neighborhoods all over West Michigan participated, including many in Grand Rapids.

"This is a chance for us to open our doors for everyone to just climb all over the equipment and have a good time," said Sgt. Joel Roon from the Kent County Sheriff's Department. "It's a very kid-friendly event and it's one of our favorite events of the year."

It's the 34th year of National Night Out with a goal of building relationships with local law enforcement and preventing crime.

"This is a way to let the community know that they don't have to be afraid to come and approach you about anything," said Ryan Ricketson, Grand Rapids Community Police Officer. "We're out here to help any way we can. The biggest thing we want to get rid of is that stigma of not being able to talk to us as a police department or police in general. We just want people to know we're very approachable."

It's also a chance for people to meet their neighbors.

"It's a night out against crime and a night out where neighbors can just meet each other, sit down and talk over a nice meal," said Marian Barrera-Young, crime prevention coordinator for the Baxter neighborhood.

All over Grand Rapids, people were playing games and eating food, like 8-year-old Thomas Driver.

"We're going to go to the bounce house, get a balloon and probably get some pizza," said Driver.

Police say it's already clear that events like National Night Out are having a positive effect on the communities they serve.

"We love the chance to just show these kids that we're human, show them that we don't bite and show them that we want them to come up to our cars and chat with us," said Roon.

"I think police are cool because they save the world and they stop bad guys from doing bad things," said 6-year-old Kamree Vaughan.

It goes the other way as well. Police say they wouldn't be able to do their jobs without the community's help.

"We know very well from experience that we cannot police these neighborhoods without the help of the community," said Roon. "Community involvement in the policing of their own areas and neighborhoods is imperative to the success of the safety of that community."

If you weren't able to take part in National Night Out on Tuesday, there's another event happening at Midtown Green Park in Grand Rapids this Saturday from 2 to 9 pm.