Police, youth find inspiring common ground

Lamenting a bygone era when citizens answered their unlocked doors without checking to see who was there, the National Association of Town Watches (NATW) created National Night Out 32 years ago.

During National Night Out in Kennett Square, the police, community come together to celebrate anti-crime advocacy.

During National Night Out in Kennett Square, the police and the  community come together to celebrate a crime-fighting partnership that has proven to be effective.

During the community-police, awareness-raising event, held on the first Tuesday in August, residents are encouraged to lock their doors, turn on their porch lights, and spend the evening outside with police and members of the community, sending a message to miscreants that their neighborhoods are not crime-friendly.

Nationally, 38.1 million people participated in 2014, according the NATW website, participating in activities ranging from block parties and ice cream socials to flashlight walks and essay contests.

For the past five years, the event has held particular significance in one Kennett Square community. The Historic East Linden Neighborhood is inviting the public to participate in a program designed to heighten partnerships between communities and law enforcement.

The 32nd National Night Out will be observed in the 300 block of East Linden Street on Tuesday, Aug. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., where a mix of at-risk children and police officers will take the stage in the 300 block of East Linden Street. This year, they’ll be talking about what they have in common.

During a talk-show-style panel discussion, high-school student Zanyla Mitchell  (a leader in the Historic East Linden Neighborhood) and Kennett Square Borough Council President Leon Spencer will ask officers, youth, and elected officials what they share, said a press release from the Joseph & Sarah Carter Community Development Corporation.

The 10-year-old grassroots organization, formerly known as the Historic East Linden Project, serves a diverse population of approximately 400 people in 100 households in the Historic East Linden Neighborhood in Kennett Square, as well as the southern Chester County community at-large. The organization is credited from turning the neighbored from a drug-infested source of crime into a vibrant, peaceful community.

The Carter CDC works to promote education, crime prevention, nourishment, affordable housing, and resident advocacy. A popular “Study Buddies” program assists about 30 kids each week, book bags are distributed annually to approximately 200 children each August, and summer lunches are provided to as many as 50 kids a day.

Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino, who serves on the board of the CDC, and Theresa Bass, the president of the Carter CDC, came up with the idea of putting a distinctively local spin on the National Night Out event that “takes corners back” from crime across the country, the release said.

“We’ve observed the event since 2010, but we’ve developed a twist, one that is particularly poignant in light of recent national events,” the release said. “The core concept is simple: Police officers and young people from our community should know each other by name.”

Those who attend the event will see firsthand how that goal gets accomplished.

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