Community and police celebrate National Night Out in Kennett Square
08/09/2016 11:05AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
In two short sentences, Captain Maurice Tomlinson of the Pennsylvania State Police perfectly summarized the true meaning of the sixth annual National Night Out event, held in the East Linden neighborhood in Kennett Square on Aug. 2.
“I believe that Whitney Houston said it best when she sang, 'I believe that the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way,'” he said. “Because that's what's been happening here.”
Tomlinson was one of several police officers, elected officials and community activists who praised the positive relations between the residents of East Linden and police, who have joined to turn this once crime-ridden neighborhood into one of the shining lights of Kennett Square.
LaToya Myers of the Kennett Borough Council said that events like the National Night Out serve not only to strengthen the relationship between police and community, but to educate children.
“Trust starts young, and if you know that you can depend on an officer at a young age, it's going to continue on through adulthood,” Myers said. “The families know that these officers are here to assist them and serve them. They see that these officers ride down the street, they will stop and speak to the kids. Fostering that is exactly what we want.”
Myers said events like National Night Out are the cornerstones that can help improve relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve, particularly in light of several tragic incidents that have occurred nationally and heightened the strain between the two factions.
“An evening like this proves that not only do individuals who don't live in the community care about the people who live here, but it means that the police officers also care,” she said. “It's really important for kids to see, particularly with all of the negative press about poor police-community relations. This is the sixth year we've done it, and each year, we talk about community policing. Now everyone else is saying, 'Yes, that's exactly what the conversation should be,' and not the negative comments about taking our streets back. We want this to be a celebration, proving that we're all working together.”
Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt said, “Sometimes, officers lack face time with the communities they serve, and too many times, we're conducting business in a short time period, and that's what most people see,” he said. “But it's not about how many people you arrest, or how many citations you issue, or police reports you take. It's whether or not you can work together with the community, when you're not doing official business.
“If you believe in yourself as a police officer, and believe in what a police officer really stands for, this event stands for what I believe are the core values of a police officer,” Nolt added. “This is a chance for me to be part of a community, and for the community to be a part of us, as well.”
The event was sponsored by the Kennett Square Police, Kennett Township and its police department, Historic Kennett Square and the Joseph and Sarah Carter Community Development Corporation. Youngsters from the community gave short speeches that included safety tips, such as leaving outside lights on at night, and including mileage markers to slow down speedy drivers.
In addition to Tomlinson, speakers included State Representatives Steve Barrar and Tom Killion, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick, County Commissioner Terence Farrell, Kennett Township Supervisor Dr. Richard Leff, and several other police officers.
Retiring Kennett Square Police Chief Edward Zunino was thanked by many speakers for his involvement in initiating National Night Out in Kennett Square, including Theresa Bass.
“Back then, Eddie was a very special person in my family's life,” Bass said. “He was the kind of officer who believed that all children mean something. Instead of arresting young people and putting them in jail, he would sit down and talk to them, and figure out a way to help through the situations they were in. We love Eddie. He's part of my family.”
“Since I started here in 1975, there's been a lot of changes in this community, and all for the better,” Zunino said. “I'm really proud to be a part of that. I have made a lot of friends in the town, and especially in this neighborhood.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.