During next week's National Night Out, Worthington Division of Police leaders hope to build relationships with the residents they serve while connecting neighbors through the common goal of safety.
National Night Out is a nationwide event that started with the creation of the National Association of Town Watch in 1981. The first National Night Out event was launched in 1984 with more than 2.5 million people involved, according to the National Association of Town Watch's website.
The event now serves as an annual opportunity for police to meet residents they serve at an informal event.
At Worthington's National Night Out, scheduled from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the Worthington Community Center, 345 E. Wilson Bridge Road, officers will bring out their vehicles and other equipment, and they will speak with residents about what they do and how they are perceived in the community.
Officer Tammy Floyd serves as the police division's community-service officer. She said National Night Out is a chance to "present ourselves in a positive way" and to "build a rapport" with children and adults alike.
"It promotes police and community partnership, and it's kind of a 'thank you' for us to folks who have been providing assistance to us throughout the year," she said. "We just try to say 'thank you' and promote those partnerships and increase additional partnerships if possible."
For Floyd, the idea isn't to have officers act differently than they would at any other time.
Instead, she said, the idea is to make residents and officers comfortable around one another so that their interactions on National Night Out can be the norm.
"This is how we interact with the public on a day-to-day basis," she said.
"We won't be any different there than if we got out of our cars (during) one of our shifts. ... We want to be approachable all the time."
Worthington spokeswoman Anne Brown said another goal of the event is to bring together residents who might not interact in other circumstances.
She said city leaders hope that in a police-organized environment, residents who are "the first line of defense" in their neighborhoods can learn to keep each other safe.
"One of the goals is to help people establish good relationships with police officers who are on the street every day," she said. "But another big goal is to build different communities and to get the neighbors to know each other. Making connections in neighborhoods between neighbors is one of best ways to stay safe from crime."
Local vendors will be at the event, too, with security equipment, school supplies and food and drinks.
But, Floyd said, the food, drinks and and everything else are not as important as speaking to residents on their own turf.
"I think it's important to continue the relationships we have with the community and do whatever we can to build additional relationships," she said.
"It's an opportunity for the public to kind of put names with faces and interact with us as much as we interact with them."
For more information, go to worthington.org.