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Connecting with the community

Gabby Wajda, 8, pets one of the police patrol horses at Fox Chase Elementary School on Aug. 4. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

As if anyone in the Abraham Lincoln High School parking lot on Aug. 4 needed any reminder what National Night Out is all about (they didn’t), police officers and commanders gave them a quick demonstration.

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Town Watch groups had organized four NNO events in the Northeast that evening. The Lincoln gathering was one of them. Dusk had set in. Elected officials were presenting awards of appreciation to officers and community volunteers. Vendors were packing up their tables and tents. And, suddenly, an emergency report blared over police radio.

A man had tried to break into a self-storage facility on Grant Avenue, the dispatcher said. An employee had spotted the crime in progress and called 911. The first responding officer attempted to arrest the suspect, but he broke free and fled in a white van.

Now, the van was spotted on Frankford Avenue in Mayfair. Officers and their bosses rushed to intercept the vehicle. But when they did, they discovered that it was the wrong white van. Nonetheless, the police were available and ready to take action.

“They went back to work, that’s what it’s all about,” said state Rep. Mike Driscoll, who witnessed the quick response.

The evening began with a totally different tone. Police joined pipe bands, motorcycle clubs, Town Watch groups, elected officials and community members in a march from Welsh Road, south on Frankford Avenue then west on Ryan Avenue to Lincoln, where they set up for a festival. Local businesses supplied free snacks and refreshments while nonprofit groups and elected officials offered useful information about public services and volunteer opportunities.

Hundreds of people stopped by the event. Their inter-mingling offered a perfect opportunity to realize the ultimate goal of National Night Out — better relations between police and the communities they serve.

“You have to show respect for the police and for the people who volunteer for Town Watch. They’re underpaid and underappreciated,” Driscoll said.

Similar scenes played out in the Knights Shopping Center at Woodhaven and Knights roads, as well as at the Fox Chase Elementary School.

State Rep. Kevin Boyle co-organized the Fox Chase event with the Fox Chase Town Watch and the help of Temple University Jeanes Hospital.

“Fox Chase is one of the best neighborhoods in the city because it has great people and it’s also one of the safest neighborhoods, too,” Boyle said. “This event and Fox-Rok opening day are the two biggest community events every year.”

Fox Chase resident Al Taubenberger, a candidate for City Council, added, “This is a great night to show support for your community, for law enforcement and for those who volunteer their time to help the police.”

Over at Knights and Woodhaven, Betsy Zack was trying to drum up new volunteers for the Town Watch and 8th Police District Advisory Council.

“We want people to respond to us, to let people know that we’re in the community and want to be a bridge between the police and the community,” Zack said.

“This is a great opportunity for the community and police to get together and work as a cohesive unit,” agreed state Sen. John Sabatina. “It’s a chance to make a difference in their neighborhood, to better their community. The cohesiveness is the key to making a bigger impact.”

Folks in Castor Gardens took a different approach in their annual National Night Out gathering, but an equally thoughtful one. Instead of bringing in dozens of tables and tents with free snacks and information, they decided to have a small cookout. Members of the 2nd Police District joined them.

“We’re small but we’re still here. We try and we do the best we can do. We try to keep the neighborhood together,” said Lynn Genetti, chairwoman of the 2nd Police District Advisory Council. “And we focus on quality-of-life issues because we feel that’s what leads to the demise of neighborhoods. You don’t need a thousand people to make a difference.”

Genetti invited families to attend the 2nd PDAC’s annual Community Day on Sept. 12 at the Target store, 7400 Bustleton Ave. It will start with a Bike Ride for Peace at 9 a.m., followed by an open-air festival with vendors and family activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ••

Community members line up to go inside a fire truck during a National Night Out event in Fox Chase. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

National Night Out: Town Watch groups organized four National Night Out events throughout the Northeast on Aug. 4. The goal of the annual event is to form better relations between police and the communities they serve. Madison Collier, 3, sits on a police motorcycle at Fox Chase Elementary School. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

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