The City of Fife abandoned a traditional indoor Monday evening to celebrate National Night Out on Aug. 4 at Dacca Park. The annual event has always been a big success for the city, in no small part thanks to the Fife Police Department.
National Night Out is a national community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighbor camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Across the nation, National Night Out events bring citizens out to mingle with their local police departments, though Fife’s celebration is a little more personal.
While police departments in towns across America will propose the idea of a national night out, most times other city organizations will then take the reins and put the event together. In Fife, the police department is the driving force in setting up the event and making sure it’s one the community can be proud of.
“We think it’s important to throw one of these for our community,” Fife’s Night Out organizer and Fife police officer Steve Van Zanten said. “Looking around, I can spot six officers ready and willing to engage with the community.”
The event not only serves as a way to bond officers and citizens, but it also allows the department to get valuable intel they may not have gotten otherwise.
“We’re not on duty and we’re not on patrol, so we’re much more approachable in these situations,” Assistant Chief Dave Woods said. “People report things they normally wouldn’t (such as) suspicious people or vehicles.”
The Fife Police Department also goes out of its way to foster a relationship with children in the community. Several different police and fire department vehicles were on-hand for kids to check out and get an up close and personal look. Furthermore, the Night Out included face painting, a rock climbing wall and a water balloon toss, allowing kids to get excited about the community event.
“Kids get a feel for the look of us. They talk to us and suddenly the guy in the uniform isn’t so scary,” Van Zanten said.
The event is not just to connect officers with citizens, but citizens to each other. The other side of national night out is to return to the days of knowing your neighbor and coming together as a community to discuss the big things.
“Neighbors meet neighbors, neighbors meet officers,” Van Zanten said. “Everyone can talk to each other about their issues.”
The event was populated with Fife citizens enjoying raffle prizes donated from various businesses, a dunk booth and free hot dogs all provided by volunteers.
“Of course I feel very passionate about crime prevention and getting the word out to the community and to see what the police and fire departments can do to help with crime prevention,” volunteer Lori Pitman said.
While children were checking out all the cool things around the park, parents and other residents had the opportunity to meet fellow citizens from across the city hailing from neighborhoods they may never visit, a benefit to having a centralized location for the event rather than a tour of the town, a plan many other cities undertake.
“It’s important for you to get to know your neighbor,” citizen Todd Toland said.
The Fife Police Department puts on several other events throughout the year including the annual Santa Run and Harvest Fest, ensuring that despite National Night Out only happening once a year, they will continue to make a partner out of the Fife community.
“We want this to be something we continue to host,” Woods said. “It bonds the community with the police and the fire department.”