Residents in the Ontario-Otsego neighborhood in Havre de Grace interact with city and MdTA police officers during National Night Out Tuesday evening.
Chrystal Morris had a dim view of police officers for many years, but that changed after she and her son moved to Havre de Grace and met the officers of the Havre de Grace Police Department.
"I saw them as the bad guy until I met them," Morris, 48, said as officers interacted with her and her neighbors in the Somerset Manor community during National Night Out Tuesday evening.
"Honest to God, they have changed my outlook on police officers, they truly have," she added.
Havre de Grace Police officers, along with their Maryland Transportation Authority Police counterparts who patrol the Route 40 Hatem Memorial Bridge between Havre de Grace and Perryville, met with residents of Somerset Manor and the Ontario-Otsego neighborhood.
City leaders, including Mayor Bill Martin, Council President David Glenn and Councilwoman Monica Worrell also attended the events.
National Night Out is observed across the country in early August as an opportunity for local police to meet with members of their community, plus residents can meet their neighbors.
Morris and her 8-year-old son, Logan, participated in Night Out at Somerset Manor, which is operated by the Havre de Grace Housing Authority.
"It's a great community, it really is," Morris said.
Logan rode around the parking lot on his bike, and city and police leaders stepped in — along with his mother — when he fell of his bike and hurt his ankle. Worrell tended to Logan and took him to put on a bandage.
"This is our first real home since he's been born," Morris said.
"They don't look down on us for being in low-income housing or our backgrounds," Morris said.
She chatted with Cpl. Dan Petz, the department's liaison to Somerset Manor and the head of community policing.
"I live in Havre de Grace, so I have a vested interested in making it safe," Petz told her.
Petz meets with residents once a month to discuss any concerns and report on activity in their neighborhood; a police captain serve's on the community's board; officers have helped residents establish a neighborhood watch, plus they attend community events, according to Nicki Biggs, executive director of the Havre de Grace Housing Authority.
"We think that our community has seen, over the past six years, a huge improvement in safety and that is because of the relationship with the police department," Biggs said.
"We have problems, but we also know we have the know how for helping the police keep it a great place to live," Sarah Fields, of OPAC, said.
Residents Mike and Stacey Davis participated in their first Night Out Tuesday.
"We met some of our neighbors who we've never met before," Mike Davis said.
The Davises reported their own positive experience with the city police department. They were walking their dog near the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House about two months ago when they noticed some youths walking behind them.
Before they knew it, the kids had "jumped the fence and were playing in the boats" on the Lock House grounds, Mike Davis recalled.