As music played in Dutterer Park and the aroma of free pizza filled the area, 9-year-old Nicholas Craft balanced a soccer ball as he and his mother browsed the many agencies who were out to provide information as part of National Night Out in Westminster.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,” he said of the event. And what would he like to ask a police officer if he gets the chance?
“How many people do they catch on a daily basis?” he said.
Celebrated around the country for the 35th year, 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,” according to natw.org.
Eight communities in the city planned activities for Tuesday evening. One, planned for the Bishop’s Garth community was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Others were fairly new, or had restarted after a few years dormant
Blaine Brown Sr., who acted as the announcer and DJ for the event at Dutterer Park also volunteers to assist the fire department and the police. He stressed the importance of getting familiar with the resources available in the city, and said through knowing people in the community he was sometimes able to direct them to resources they needed.
Irene Santiago, a HOA president for The Greens of Westminster community helped organize the neighborhood’s event at the Westminster Municipal Pool. She was excited when Mayor Joe Dominick read a proclamation recognizing the event, which included s’mores, information from the police and a demonstration from Animal Control.
Dominick started out his day at Dutterer Park, as he and Police Chief Jeff Spaulding made the rounds to many of the different events.
“I’m trying to talk to as many people as I can,” he said. “I want to hear what people have to say to me.”
At the Eagle View Community event on Firestone Road, Police Officer 1st Class Christopher Obst of the Westminster Police Department said one of the best interactions he had had so far was with a group of teenagers who were interested in learning more about training in administering naloxone, which can reverse a heroin overdose. They wanted to know more in just case they came across someone overdosing.
“They asked some really good questions,” Obst said.
Daniel Strickler, who is involved in several homeowner’s associations, said he was interested in the event because as a real estate agent he wants to learn more about the community. He has been coming to the Eagle View event for many years because it has been very consistent, he said.
In the Furnace Hills Community event, many of the attendees were children, who flocked to the visiting ice cream truck and took turns meeting McGruff the Crime Dog.
Rachel Lloyd said the activity is a good community event for kids and said the ice cream was one of the highlights for her family.
In recent weeks, Westminster police, alongside Maryland State Police and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office have increased patrols in some areas of Westminster after two incidents involving gunshots fired in the area of East Green Street, which police believe to have been targeted incidents related to drug activity.
In a separate incident, several cars and a home were broken into. Spaulding said police were able to trace a stolen laptop and made an arrest within a day or two of the incident.
After concern from the community, they reached out to the HOA and will be holding a community meeting at the Municipal Pool’s community center Thursday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m.
Spaulding spoke to the group gathered for Tuesday’s National Night Out event and highlighted the importance of a partnership between the community and the police.
“People will say, ‘I saw something, but I didn’t want to bother the police,’ ” he said.
In 99 out of 100 situations, he said, a concern may turn out to be nothing, but in the case that there is a problem, being alerted by the community can give police a much better chance of solving a crime.
“You know what looks normal and natural in your community,” he said.