Tuesday evening barbecue brings police and Catonsville neighborhood residents together

The Baltimore County Police Department had several police cars parked in front of a home on Rockwell Avenue at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but trouble was nowhere to be seen.

Six police officers, including Capt. John Spiroff, the commander of the Wilkens Police Station, joined about two dozen area residents for a barbecue to celebrate the 28th annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Paul Buker, a retired four-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department who founded and became president of the Westchester Citizens on Patrol in 2010, hosted the event at his parents' home.

The quiet neighborhood of well-manicured lawns patrolled by the Westchester C.O.P. didn't look as if it needed a community watch.

Buker said he got the idea for the C.O.P. last year after one of his two children, then in third grade, was assaulted by four boys.

The day after the assault, Buker said he handed out 800 fliers and heard from community members about vandalism and break-ins they had experienced but had not reported.

"A lot of people thought, 'It was just a shed being broken into or just my car,' " Buker said. "What I tried to tell them was I'm hearing this not only from you but a lot of other people."

Tuesday's event, Buker said, attracted many people not involved with the C.O.P., which is good for the neighborhood.

"It's cool to see neighborhood people, community people who have never met each other before and start to get to know each other and start to develop some camaraderie," Buker said. "It just helps build community.

"As you can see from all of the officers here, we get a lot of support from them," said Buker who has lived in the western Catonsville neighborhood since 1979. "(This event) raises community awareness and expresses our gratitude for the police."

Last year's nationwide event in 15,000 communities attracted more than 37 million participants, according to a release from the police.

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