Police departments join with community for National Night Out Tuesday

Dover Police Department Master Cpl. Brian Allen interacts with the public during a past National Night Out. (Submitted photo/Dover Police Department)

For a two-member police department in a town of roughly 1,650, it’s hugely successful by any measure.

For a couple of hours nationwide, National Night Out brings communities and law enforcement together in a relaxed, informal setting. This year’s event is on Tuesday.

Wyoming’s get-together runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tre Sorelle Dolce Ice Cream & Italian Ice shop at 27 S. Railroad Ave. Cool treats will be provided at no charge.

The first gathering drew 300 folks in 2016, followed by 600 and 1,000 the next two years.

“I got it started and it’s not going to stop,” Wyoming Police Chief Martin Willey said.

“It’s a chance for the public to meet us, talk to us, we can do one-on-ones. We have a small town and outreach goes a long way.

“By just talking to people you’d be surprised how much you can learn. It’s a way to keep my finger on the pulse of the community and hopefully help people here better understand where we’re coming from.

“Most of all this is about strengthening relationships and showing residents here how much I appreciate them.”

Free food and drink donated by local businesses are available, along with two or three bouncy houses and other kid-friendly activities.

Harrington Police are scheduled to conduct a K-9 demonstration, and Clayton will present its motorcycle unit. The Camden-Wyoming Fire Company’s ladder truck is slated to provide rides, and antique police cars will be displayed.

Delaware Justice Information System information will be available, along with the Delaware Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A DJ is slated and Bikers Club for Christ will cook hot dogs. Deep Water Church members will create balloon animals.

Chief Willey is striving to add one community event a year until there is one each month.

Growing attendance

In Dover, attendance could range from 1,200 to 2,500.

They’ll be met by roughly 12 Dover Police officers and up to 40 first responders or more from other agencies. This year’s event is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dover Mall at 1365 N. DuPont Highway.

Personal document shredding coordinated by WSFS Bank is available beginning at 5 p.m.

Food and drink are available while supplies last in a family-friendly, relaxed environment. Mobile Cloud Video is providing entertainment.

Besides Dover PD, law enforcement, emergency agencies and military personnel will attend, along with:

• McGruff the Crime Dog

• Dover Air Force Base

• Delaware State University Police

• Delaware State Fire School

• Little Creek and Dover fire departments

• DNREC Police.

It’s the fifth consecutive year for the Dover event.

“We don’t necessarily track numbers, but attendance has steadily grown over time,” spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

“With that, we have seen an increase in public and private agencies and businesses wishing to be a part of the event.”

The K-9 demonstrations are typically a large crowd pleaser, Cpl. Hoffman said. Specialized units engage attendees with equipment demonstrations and by providing information on services, all with the aim of building more positive relationships.

Campaigning political candidates are not invited.

Other police departments

Some smaller police agencies won’t participate on the official night due to limited staffing to handle regular duties.

“Unfortunately due to manpower and overtime issues we will not be able to participate at this time,” Camden Police Chief Marcus Whitney said.

“I am hoping to, as in years past, conduct our own National Night Out event on a regular basis in the future.

According to Cheswold Police Chief Christopher Workman, officers will join other gatherings when available.

Smyrna and Harrington PDs hold events in October and may be joined by other law enforcement officers nearby.

While Delaware State Police don’t host their own event, troopers typically attend the municipal events.

Milford’s night will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bicentennial Park.

“This is our 25th year,” Sgt. Robert Masten said. “It initially got started as a small event at the library amphitheater. At the time, there was a national movement for national night out, and it fit right in with the community policing initiative that we were working on at the time.”

Dagsboro’s second annual event partners police with the town, Dagsboro Business Alliance and fire departments.

Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey, who is retiring later in August, has been extra busy lining up demonstrations and attractions.

“I have really put a lot of effort into it,” Chief Toomey said. “We had such a turnout last year that I want to make it that much better and that much grander. I really did a lot of research on what was available, who was available.”

Staff writers Glenn Rolfe and Jennifer Antonik contributed to this story.

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