The Aberdeen Police Department has distributed more than 100 backpacks filled with school supplies, donated by members of the community, to children in need in Aberdeen and Harford County, and police will accept more donations through the end of September.
The PACK, or Police Assisting Community Kids, campaign is one of many ways the police department has been building relationships with city residents over the summer and will continue to do so this fall — the Aberdeen Police and partner businesses and organizations host such events throughout the year.
“We provide a platform for people to interact with their public safety [agencies] ... it’s not a call for service; it’s centered in an area where people can have a conversation,” APD spokesperson Lt. Will Reiber said Wednesday.
The end of August featured several distributions of backpacks, including 36 packs delivered to the Harford County Health Department Healthy Families program offices in Edgewood Aug. 23, more packs given out to the community during the Aberdeen Farmer’s Market in Festival Park Aug. 29, plus packs given to three children in the city by Sgt. Tice, also on Aug. 29. These moments and other highlights of the PACK campaign, such as an initiative by two local Girl Scouts to make and sell dog treats to raise money to purchase school supplies and fill backpacks donated by family and friends, have been features on the Aberdeen Police Department Facebook page.
The backpacks and school supplies have been made available to children in kindergarten through high school, and they have been prepared by grade and by gender — either specific to boys and girls or gender-neutral, according to Reiber.
“We wanted to make sure they felt like it was theirs, and [students] could get a new backpack and start the year fresh with the proper supplies and with a good attitude,” he said.
People can still donate school supplies and backpacks; they can be dropped off at the Aberdeen City Hall/police department complex at 60 N. Parke St., either on the city hall side facing Parke Street or on the police department side facing Franklin Street — the police lobby is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen to the public Sept. 16, according to Reiber.
The 2019-2020 school year for Harford County Public Schools started Tuesday. Reiber emphasized that the department has been a “conduit” to distribute the materials, and he thanked the citizens, businesses and community organizations that have collected and donated them.
“Because of their efforts, there were a lot of happy kids this school year,” he said.
The department also celebrated its annual Public Safety Day in Festival Park Saturday, Aug. 24, during which people could meet Aberdeen Police officers as well as representatives of other area law enforcement agencies and fire and EMS companies.
Public safety agencies in the Baltimore metropolitan area had been invited, Police Chief Henry Trabert said during an Aug. 26 meeting of the mayor and City Council. Trabert said attendance was not as large as he would have liked, noting the event happened the same time as the inaugural Waterfront Festival in Havre de Grace, but it was still a good event since “we got to meet some new people.”
“We got an opportunity to meet with our allied agencies and build up better partnerships with them,” the chief said.
Visitors could meet with police, fire and EMS, even military representatives, Reiber said Wednesday. They could interact with members of police tactical, patrol, K-9 and community policing units and interact with public safety personnel in a more relaxed environment, as opposed to interacting with them during an emergency.
“It just gives everybody a first-hand opportunity to come out and see some of the folks that are serving the community on a daily basis,” Reiber said.
City resident Cindy St. Hilaire, who recently moved to Aberdeen from Brooklyn, N.Y., attended Public Safety Day with her two sons, Kaniel, age 7, and Kahdeem, who is 5 years old.
St. Hilaire said her children enjoyed interacting with Aberdeen officers and Harford County Sherrif’s Office deputies, asking them questions and making comparisons between their agencies and the New York Police Department.
Kaniel said he wants to be a police officer when he grows up, saying “I want to catch bad guys and direct traffic.”
He listed several other aspects of police work, such as helping animals, helping find missing people, issuing traffic tickets, “or, if [a driver] just made a bad mistake, the police officer gives them a warning.”
The Aberdeen Police will continue to coordinate community events this fall, such as Cookie With a Cop from 4 to 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Aberdeen Chick-Fil-A restaurant, 1001 Beards Hill Road. Reiber said Chick-Fil-A has been a “long-standing partner” with the police, helping to host a community event at the Aberdeen restaurant nearly every month.
For the October event, people can visit the restaurant between 4 and 5 p.m., and children can receive treats “at no cost” and meet their local police officers.
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“It’s another way for our public to be able to interact [with us] in a a great environment,” Reiber said.