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Community, law enforcement partner for National Night Out

Authorities participated in National Night Out, which works to unite police, fire and emergency personnel with the community.

There was a large presence of police, fire and emergency response personnel behind the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department on Tuesday night. Although that would usually indicate an emergency, the emergency personnel were out to meet the community.

The Sykesville Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Company, Maryland State Police and Carroll County State's Attorney's Office, as well as several community organizations, participated in National Night Out, an event that works to bring police, fire and emergency personnel together with the community.

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"This is about the fire and police departments out to talk to the residents," said Ellen Dix, who works on the administrative side of the Fire Department.

National Night Out allows the community to meet with authorities in a positive setting. Often people and children only get to see officers in a negative setting, such as a car collision or a crime, Sykesville police Chief Michael Spaulding said.

"It's a great opportunity for us to come out with our partners in the community," he said.

Spaulding noted that there was a large turnout, which was encouraging, he said. People stopped by to thank him and his officers for their service.

Right now, tensions are high in some places between police and community, and while he has not noticed that in Sykesville, it is still important to interact with the community and have community-based policing, which is the "bread and butter" of the Sykesville department, he said.

"We want to be involved with what's going on and communicate with our residents to see what's going on," he said.

Like the Sykesville police, the State's Attorney's Office was also at the Sykesville station Tuesday to get a chance to meet the community, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Roscher said.

"We're here because a lot of people don't know what the State's Attorney['s Office] is," he said.

People don't always understand its role, and some people mistake them for the Public Defender's Office instead of the prosecution, he said.

The Sykesville location was one of the several for National Night Out in the county. Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester police departments also held celebrations, and there was a location in New Windsor, too.

The Manchester event had food, drinks; and police cars, firetrucks and ambulances for children to explore, Manchester police Chief John Hess said.

"It's a fun-filled event for kids and families," he said.

The Hampstead location also had food and drinks with the opportunity to meet officers and learn more about what they do, Sgt. Robert Swartz said.

The Hampstead department is lucky to have a good relationship with the community, and the event helps them further it, Swartz said.

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"It's a very important thing for us," he said. "We're part of the community."

The Westminster Police Department had six locations in the city for National Night Out, including at Dutterer Family Park and Bishop's Garth, Chief Jeff Spaulding said.

"It's the one evening a year we thank the community for partnering us for crime enforcement," he said.

The Sheriff's Office had deputies at several of the locations, Cpl. Jon Light said, and Maryland State Police had troopers at every National Night Out location, Sgt. Robert Petras said.

Petras said community-based policing is important for Maryland State Police because it lowers the amount of gaps between them and the community, helping to lower the amount of criminal activity.

He's also got a vested interest in keeping the area safe, he said.

"Well, I not only work in Carroll, I live here," Petras said.

For the Sheriff's Office, the event helps strengthen the relationship between the community and the deputies, an important pursuit, Light said.

"It's a wonderful annual event that brings law enforcement, public safety and emergency services together on one night," Sheriff Jim DeWees said. "The support we feel from the community is evident and overwhelming."

The Sheriff's Office has a good relationship with the community, and part of that is kept up by attending events like the one Tuesday, Light said.

"To build community relationships, you have to be out in the community, be at events like this," he said.

Part of the Sheriff's Office display included the Crime Scene Unit, to which children flocked to get fingerprinted.

Lexi Brzeczko, 12, Brayden Bartel, 10, and Gabby Bartel, 7, all got their fingerprints inked and said it was their favorite part of the night.

Brayden came with his family to see the different equipment, police and firefighters, he said.

"I like how they are not scary," Brayden said.

It was "really cool" to see them out at the National Night Out, he said.

"I don't think they get a lot of free time because they always got a mission," Brayden said.

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