Kennett’s National Night Out wins kudos

Anyone waking from a nap in the 200 or 300 block of East Linden Street on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 2, might have rubbed their eyes in wonder at the crowded scene on the streets.

Police officers and kids mingle during the Sixth Annual National Night Out in Kennett Square.

Kennett Square Police Officer Chris Gravina (from left) poses with Aalana Vasquez, Kennett Township Officer Johnathan Ortiz and Johnette Boddy  during Kennett Square's Sixth Annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Police officers from Kennett Township, the borough, and Pennsylvania State Police appeared everywhere, joking with smiling children while parents kicked back and chatted amiably with local officials, such as Kennett Square Mayor Matthew Fetick, Kennett Square Borough Council President Danilo P. Maffei and recently retired Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino.

The activity represented Kennett Square’s Sixth Annual National Night Out, part of a 32-year national program started by the National Association of Town Watches. The goal is to encourage friendly community policing, providing a perfect complement to the borough’s former Historic East Linden Project, now the Joseph & Sarah Carter Community Development Corporation.

The community-based nonprofit oversaw a steady and dramatic revitalization over the past 14 years in a neighborhood once plagued by drug-dealing, violence, and decay. Theresa Bass, who grew up in the historic, culturally diverse section of the borough, spearheaded the “take back our streets” initiative. One of the people she turned to for assistance was her longtime friend, Zunino.

Theresa Bass (left), president of the Carter CDC, poses with her daughter, LaToya Myers,

Theresa Bass (left), president of the Carter CDC, poses with her daughter, LaToya Myers, the nonprofit's executive director.

On Tuesday evening, Zunino and Bass, now president of the Carter CDC, expressed their mutual admiration and gratitude for the transformation. The CDC continues to promote positive change with a roster of programs that include free summer lunches and after-school programs for children and trips for the neighborhood residents.

“Instead of throwing young men in jail for breaking the law, he would sit down and talk with them,” Bass said, calling Zunino “the epitome of community policing.”

Reflecting on his more than four decades on the force, Zunino said, “Since 1975, I’ve seen a lot of changes in Kennett Square and all for the better.”

During a short program, police chiefs formally introduced their officers to the crowd. Kennett Square Police Officer Andrew Manko  noted, “I just learned the kids have nicknames for all the officers, and none of them include expletives!”

Kennett Square Police Officer Jeremiah Boyer shared how much he has enjoyed getting to know the children of the area. Quoting Whitney Houston, he said, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way.”

Manko agreed. “I love interacting with kids and their parents,” he said. “When I’m on duty, they always stop me and say, ‘hi.’ It’s good to put a face with a name.”

Chester County Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell said that Kennett’s community policing is talked about across Pennsylvania as a model for all communities.

Mayor Fetick complimented the police department and the efforts of Linden Street residents. “If all quadrants of Kennett Square were like Linden Street, Kennett Square would be unstoppable!” he said.

For their part, children of all ages lined up for their turn to read excerpts from essays they wrote to describe what they wanted to see for their neighborhood, what they hoped for from the police, and what they planned to contribute to their community.

The best was saved for last when little Kaleb Tynes shouted in the microphone, “You’re the best cops in the whole state!”

Thousands of communities in all U.S. states, territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide participate in National Night Out. The National Association of Town Watch promotes “involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and sending a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”

Ethan Cramer, a member of the Carter CDC board as well as borough council, served as host for the evening. Following the speeches and tributes, everyone lingered to enjoy pizza and water ice. No one was in a hurry to leave a once-dangerous area of town as early evening turned to night.



About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.



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