Residents from Lakehurst and surrounding communities will have an opportunity to get to know their local law enforcement officials during the 29th annual National Night Out on Tuesday.
From 6 to 10 p.m., members of law enforcement will mingle with the expected 1,000 to 1,500 locals at the Lakehurst baseball field at the corner of Chestnut and Myrtle streets. Patrolmen Ian James and Matthew Kline have organized the free event for the past few years.
"It seems like more people are coming out and participating in National Night Out," James said. "It lets them know we're their friends, and they will recognize us from this type of event when we come to call."
The event will include a disc jockey, prize raffle and information tables from local businesses. The New Jersey State Police helicopter will be on display, the Ocean County SWAT team will be present and the Ocean County K-9 unit will hold a demonstration. Participants can navigate a drunken driving course where they put on special simulation goggles and drive a golf cart. All the food and prizes for the night are donated, according to James.
Lakehurst Mayor Harry Robbins said the community will have the chance to find out more about their Municipal Alliance and DARE programs during the Night Out. Residents also can join the borough's first aid or fire company.
"The feedback I get from our community is great," Robbins said. "But not only do we get a great turnout from the Lakehurst community, we also get a lot of residents from our neighboring towns and they love it as well."
The Night Out has been a great asset, James said. Residents enjoy it and continue to come out, but the police also enjoy it.
"It makes people more aware that we're here to help them and maybe they're more willing to work with us," he said. "It's not just one night, it's forever."
Lakehurst Police Sgt. Ron Heinzman praised Patrolmen James and Kline, for making the Night Out a success.
"They put countless hours of their own time into this and they do a great job," said Heinzman. "The planning starts months in advance."
This year is the 29th Annual National Night Out, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. First started in 1984 to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anti-crime efforts, about 37 million people in 15,110 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide participated in last year's event. This year, more than 15,500 communities are expected to take part.
"I do feel the event helps improves the relationship between the public and the police," Robbins said. "It's always nice to meet your police in this kind of environment so when a resident needs a policeman or woman, and they walk up to the front door, the resident knows the face. That's what small town USA is all about."