ROANOKE, Va. – A solid relationship between neighborhoods and public safety agencies is critical to maintaining a safe and healthy community, and National Night Out emphasizes just that.
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.
Across the country, communities celebrate the event on the first Tuesday in August every year, and 2022 is the 38th year of celebration.
Roanoke neighborhoods and communities were some of over 100 participants throughout the Commonwealth to take part in this year’s National Night Out.
And this was the first year one of the events was off of Williamson Road.
Valerie Brown, Executive Director for The Greater Williamson Road Area Business Association, said it was nice to be a part of this year’s event.
“We’re having a party. We’re pretty excited. This is National Night Out so we have a lot of our first responders here,” Brown said.
First responders like Captain Andrew Pulley with Roanoke City Police Department said the relationship between public safety and the community is more critical than ever.
“Especially now when most public safety agencies, not just law enforcement but all public safety agencies are struggling with staffing … we can use as much help and as many eyes out in the community as possible. So connecting with the people that we’re asking the help for is a great thing to do,” Pulley said.
David Hoback, Chief of Roanoke Fire-EMS, echoed the same point.
“When we have that, they can trust us just a little bit better. Every day we go out they trust their lives in our hands. And for them to see us in this environment … non-emergency … and really get to know us as a person is really good,” Hoback said.
One of the other areas celebrating National Night Out was in Northwest Roanoke.
Carroll Carter, a Northwest Roanoke area resident, said he believes the relationship between law enforcement and his neighborhood could be stronger.
“It can get better. It can be better. Because again when you get all these … the national news … police killing, 175 bullets in one body … you know people scared. The very people who are supposed to protect you, they can make us scared,” Carter said.
Events like National Night Out aim to ease tensions between police and their communities. Building a better relationship can lead to people feeling more comfortable in their neighborhoods.
“It’s about S-A-F-E. Safe, being safe. Being safe in the community. Knowing that there’s going to be some justice done when something is wrong,” Carroll said.
First responders on National Night Out wanted to show their community that they enjoy interacting with people even in non-emergency situations.
“Usually, people call us on their worst day or when the worst thing is happening for them. So being able to connect with them when it’s not their worst day is really important,” Pulley said.
As the city continues to address violent crime concerns in the area, it’s important to know it takes a group effort.
“There is not one community that can function by itself. We need all the members of that community to work together,” Carroll said.
The next National Night Out will be on August 1, 2023.