Paradise hosts its first National Night Out

Britta Prinzivalli was planning on taking her three boys, ages 7, 4 and 8 months, to the pool for an evening swim, when flashing lights from an unmarked police SUV at Emanuel United Methodist Church caught the eyes of her two oldest sons.

They stopped to see what was happening. It was a National Night Out event, hosted by the Paradise Area Citizens on Patrol and the Paradise Community Association.


"My kids wouldn't miss this for the world, once they saw what was going on," said Prinzivalli, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom. "These guys, they're police obsessed."

The Prinzivallis were among about 100 community members who stopped by the church parking lot Tuesday evening, as the skies cleared following afternoon showers. The event was the first of its kind in Paradise, a community in Catonsville just inside the Beltway.


Held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out started in 1984 in 23 states as a way to promote police and community partnerships. It has expanded to 16,000 communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide, according to National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit that created the event and focuses on organized community crime prevention activities.

The Paradise event was one of eight scheduled National Night Out events within the county police department's Wilkens precinct — which covers the southwest portion of Baltimore County — and more than 50 in the county.

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As members of the two Paradise groups grilled hot dogs, children — many of them wearing plastic firefighter hats — were able to interact with police officers and firefighters and sit inside Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department firetrucks and an unmarked Maryland State Police cruiser.

Senior Trooper Rodney Byrd of the state police showed children how his vehicle worked and let them take a look inside. Each time the car's siren activated, it would startle the kids nearby.

"[We want to] let them know that officers are peace officers and we're friendly," said Byrd, who has been with the police department for 13 years and is based in Essex.

Elena Bolling, a 40-year-old nurse, moved to Paradise about a month ago and thought the event would be a good way to meet neighbors. She watched her daughter, Cyleigh, sit in the driver's seat of an Arbutus firetruck.

"It's cute," Elena Bolling said. "She looked very at home."

Joe Pallozzi, president of the Paradise Community Association, said it was important to hold the gathering so that the community could come together and get to know first responders.


The event was funded through a $1,355 Baltimore County Police grant which will also allow the Citizens on Patrol group to add signage in the community to let the public know about the group's existence, he said.