National Night Out kicks off early

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - National Night Out is coming up this week, and as you know, it's a big party for neighborhoods to generate support for anti-crime programs.

Local police officers kicked off the festivities early on Saturday.

37 million people nationwide are expected to take part in National Night Out.

Police are hoping this event can improve their relationship with the community, and helping them fight crime at the same time.

Many parents brought their kids to the Target off Forest Hill Avenue to check out a police tank, get their fingerprints, or just to get a piece of candy.

Richmond Police Officer Daniel Minton says it's a chance for the community to meet law enforcement in a more relaxed setting.

"We're not really the authority figure that night," Minton said.  "(We're) just talking to them, seeing what they need in their community and how we can work together and get things done."

Laree Sugg brought her son by the kickoff. She says she'll feel more comfortable dealing with law enforcement now that she's had a chance to meet some of the people behind the uniform.

"If there's ever an instance where you definitely need to call on them for an emergency, hopefully I would be less intimidated," Sugg said.  "Certainly my son would be less intimidated."

Police admit it's tough to fight crime or solve open cases without some help from the community.

"We can't do it by ourselves," Minton said.  "A lot of people think the police department goes out and solves the problem but without the community we couldn't do what we do."

Jim Gerrety brought his kids by to get their faces painted. He says he hopes community members will be more willing to give police a helping hand after getting a chance to know them at national night out.

"They've got a tough job," Gerrety said.  "Anything the community can do to make their jobs easier is going to be better for us all."

Fifteen thousand communities nationwide are taking part in National Night Out.

Chances are your local law enforcement will be having a few block parties, cookouts or porch vigils near you on Tuesday.

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