Last week local law enforcement and fire agencies from around the county gathered for the “National Night Out Against Crime” at Cherry Street Park in Grantsville.
The Night Out ran from 5-8 p.m on Tuesday, Aug. 2. to allow the agencies to answer questions, get to know members of the community, and show that police officers are human too.
Around 350 community members attended the event. There were also over 40 law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders there.
During the event, members of the Tooele City, Grantsville and Dugway police departments, the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office, Tooele County Search and Rescue, and the Utah Highway Patrol were there. Officers from Adult Probation and Parole, staff from the Mountain West Medical Center ambulance team, and Tooele, Grantsville and North Tooele Fire District firefighters were also on hand.
At the event there were several food trucks and games, including a dunk tank and a mini toy shooting range. Participants were also able to learn how to break down a door with the Adult Probation and Parole.
“Our goal was to make it a fair-like atmosphere that’s easy going where officers could interact with the community in a positive way and have some fun,” Tooele City’s public information officer, Colbey Bentley said.
Officers stood around during the event eagerly waiting for community members to come ask them questions and get to know them.
“We want people to come up to us, talk to us, and get to know us,” Bentley said. “They can ask us anything, whether it’s about our jobs, or just anything in general. We had people ask us all sorts of questions, like how long we’ve been working here, if we enjoy it, why we work where we work. It’s nice to have an interaction with the public where it’s not a situation where we are called to handle something. We were just there to talk and have fun.”
The main purpose of the event was to create trust between the community and law enforcement.
“We are trying to bridge that gap between the community and law enforcement,” Bentley said. “In Tooele County, we are really lucky to have so much public support. In other areas of the country, you don’t have as much public support. We don’t feel like there’s as big of a gap as other places, but we strive to keep the community’s trust and this is a thing we can do to let them know who we are. It’s an event where we are trying to foster trust.”
Next year, the event will be hosted by the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office. It may be hosted at the Benson Grist Mill. The event takes place each year on the first Tuesday in August.
“We appreciate everyone coming out,” Bentley said. “We appreciate all of the support we’ve gotten and the public in general.”
To keep up with the event, follow the Tooele or Grantsville City Police Departments, or the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook.
Businesses who want to get involved should contact one of the three agencies as well.
The event first took place in Tooele County in 2014. It was started here by the Tooele City Police Department’s community oriented policing division, a branch of the police department that, among other things, creates events for the public.
The first year, Tooele and Grantsville Police Departments, Dugway Police Department, and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office participated.
Each year, at least 300 community members show up to the event.
“Depending on the location, sometimes the turnout is higher,” Bentley said. “Sometimes we get people driving by who the event and they stop because of that.”
Local law enforcement want to keep the event going each year.
“Every year we see a negative interaction with law enforcement that ends up going to national news that has the potential to erode trust in law enforcement,” Bentley said. “Whenever that happens, good officers tend to get bunched in with the bad officers and we have people who believe that one officer did this, so they must all be like that or all the agencies have a lot of issues. This gives us the opportunity to go out and meet with the community. They have this opportunity to go, ‘Okay, this is different from what I’m seeing on the news or what a friend told me or what I saw on a social media site. These people are different and I’m not going to group them all together’ … This allows the community to form their own opinions.”
The National Night Out Against Crime is an event celebrated all over the country.
Each year, millions of community members take part in the event from across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S territories, and Military bases. Events across the nation include block parties, festivals, fairs, parades, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits, and safety demonstrations, according to the National Night Out Against Crime website, natw.org.
The event began in 1984 in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the National Association of Town Watch. The first event involved 2.5 million community members across 400 communities in 23 states.
From there, the event has grown to 38 million community members across 17,000 communities in the past 39 years.
“National Night Out grew to become a celebration beyond just front porch vigils and symbolic efforts amongst neighbors to send a message of neighborhood camaraderie,” National Night Out Against Crime officials wrote on their website.