By Lee Murray
Police officers, community leaders, city officials and the public gathered in Wick Park to participate in National Night Out, a community gathering that is celebrated in 15,000 cities and townships across the country.
A parade of emergency vehicles, motorcycles and local business trucks led the way Tuesday afternoon to the Wick Park Pavilion on the North Side, where grills full of hot dogs and hamburgers were surrounded by sponsors and volunteers.
Sgt. Rick Alli, president of Fraternal Order of Police Youngstown Lodge 28, was manning the grill.
“The Night Out formed 30 years ago as a night where city officials, block watches and police officers can get together and declare our unity against crime,” Alli said. “It’s set up so we can network together. Our common involvement helps us get together for a common cause.”
Council members joined representatives from Pride Youngstown, the Black Knights Police Association and Blue Line 4 a Cure, a local cancer charity, in the festivities.
Sgt. Anita Davis, a Youngstown police officer and representative of Pride Youngstown, said having a diverse group of sponsors is an essential aspect of the event.
“It’s important that we’re all here because we own the streets, not crime,” Davis said.
The first National Night Out event was 30 years ago. It was created to bring law enforcement and the city closer together in an annual effort to reach out to the community and curb crime. Youngstown joined the party in the event’s second year.
Police Chief Rod Foley, who was one of the first to sample the hot dogs as they came off the grill, said he has been involved in the event since joining the force in 1989.
“We’re excited that cities across the country and into Canada are united in the fight against crime,” Foley said. He added that block watches set neighborhood standards and create a sense of cohesiveness.
“Block watches work because, if people know they are being watched, they won’t commit crime,” Foley said. “We can work together and take our neighborhoods back.”
Jimmy Hughes, former police chief and president of the Black Knights, said building great communities starts with having a caring attitude for your neighborhood.
“As a city, we are very good at forming neighborhood organizations,” Hughes said. “I’ve always believed that you run the city by caring for neighborhoods first. All of these groups have come together to celebrate that.
“If we all take care of our neighborhoods, we can make everything better.”
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, University of Akron and professional media outlets WYSU-FM Radio, The Vindicator, The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio, both of Akron.