By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It’s one night of the year where the badge and blue shirt come to represent something a little less fear-inducing, when the local fuzz trades in authority to bond with those it protects over burgers and dogs.
National Night Out, the community outreach program that spans police departments coast-to-coast, gets going in select towns on The Green Tuesday night, a fitting lead into the lazy days of summer’s end when many families are preparing for another school year.
“It’s good to get everyone out. It shows the kids they don’t have to be afraid to interact with the police,” said Stephen Schneider, a patrolman in Fair Haven. “We’re not just out there writing tickets and telling them to put their helmets on. We’re there for everybody.”
Besides, who can resist a sanctioned chance to dunk a cop with a fastball?
“It’s a fun night for the kids, and that’s what it’s really about, the kids,” Schneider said.
It started as a crime-fighting thing,” said state Senator Jennifer Beck, whose 12th district office helped organize the Red Bank event. “Now, it’s more about community building. The police department wants kids to know their faces, but also to know about the profession” as a future career option.
The list of activities, and partnerships for the event, is a long one. Businesses set up to offer products and prizes; police put on various demonstrations, like “drunk goggle” obstacle courses; community organizations present information on what they have to offer; and, of course, free food.
Below is a rundown of what’s lined up in Red Bank and Fair Haven, the only two participants in our coverage area this year.
The event will begin at 6:00 pm at Red Bank Police Headquarters, 90 Monmouth Street, with a walk that will circle the northern part of town and return to headquarters. A number of community organizations will be present and have information about their programs available to attendees. These groups include:
• Red Bank Parks & Recreation • Red Bank Senior Center • Red Bank Public Library • Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County • Red Bank Safe Routes group
• 180 Turning Lives Around • YMCA • Visiting Nurses Association
• Red Bank Family Resource Center
This year’s event will include information booths at headquarters on the following topics:
• DWI Awareness “drunk” goggle obstacle course
• Radar baseball throw
• Child ID/Missing Persons
The event will also include tours of police headquarters, police, fire department and first aid equipment displays. Red Bank PBA Local #39 and Super Foodtown of Red Bank will be supplying food and refreshments for a barbeque during the event.
Th event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Youth Center (located behind police headquarters). Among the many events planned are:
• A dunk tank sponsored by the Fair Haven PTA
• An adventure bounce house sponsored by LOK DOC
• An inflatable speed pitch with radar sponsored by the Fair Haven Fire Department
• An inflatable gaming tent housing four separate games sponsored by the Fair Haven First Aid
• A karate demonstration by Fair Haven Fitness
• A K-9 demonstration by Monmouth County Sheriffs’ officer Kurt Kroeper and his K-9 partner Evan.
Target stores will be giving away one girls bike and one boy’s bike.
McGruff the Crime Dog will make a guest appearance and complimentary food and beverages will be served along with drawings to win special prizes.