Residents and law enforcement mingled at about 40 neighborhood block parties Tuesday throughout Spokane – and thousands of communities across the country – in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the two groups and prevent crime.
National Night Out is celebrated annually on the first Tuesday in August. Some areas hold community events the first Tuesday in October.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity to get to meet people in a non-law enforcement setting,” Spokane police Capt. Dave Singley said.
Many times when someone interacts with officers, they’re in crisis, Singley said, so Tuesday was a chance for him and other officers to connect with community members in a social setting.
Singley works in the downtown precinct, near Wall Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue, where one of the events was held.
People played cornhole, used chalk on sidewalks and chatted with various law enforcement agencies downtown. People of all ages petted a black quarterhorse named Gemma, who is part of Spokane Community Oriented Policing Services’ mounted patrol unit, and dogs from Spokane COPS’ Paws on Patrol.
Kerri Gerken, a Spokane COPS volunteer, said the horse helps bridge the gap between police and the community.
“We just want the community to know that the police are here for them,” she said.
Elizabeth McSpadden brought her two daughters to the block party after checking out the one at A.M. Cannon Park.
McSpadden said her father and brother were Marines, and she wanted to honor those who serve, including law enforcement. She said the party was an opportunity for children to positively interact with police and ask them questions.
“This is a way for the kids to actually establish a little bit of a rapport with the officers in a positive way so they’re not as fearful of them,” McSpadden said.
Shae Blackwell, secretary of Spokane’s Riverside Neighborhood Council, said many who attended the downtown party were not downtown residents but passersby. Other block parties attracted residents in the neighborhood where the event was held.
“This one is just so unique and so different than any other in town,” Blackwell said of the downtown event.
The Riverside Neighborhood Council encompasses downtown , where Blackwell resides.
She said vehicle prowling, illegal camping and loud vehicles are some top issues downtown residents complain about.
Almost 2,200 vehicle prowls were reported citywide from Jan. 1 to partway through June, police said. That was a 94% spike compared to the same period last year, when 1,125 incidents were reported.
Spokane police Cpl. Nick Briggs said at the time that the biggest spike was downtown.
“What happens out of this is neighborhoods and neighbors feel empowered that, you know what, we can do things within our neighborhood to make a difference and that police are here with us,” police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said about National Night Out.
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