National Night Out in Morris Township: Bringing first responders out of their silos

Morris Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, right; with Sgt. Keisha Higgs and Det. Supv. Patrick LaGuerre, National Night Out 2018. Photo courtesy of MCPO
Morris Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, right; with Sgt. Keisha Higgs and Det. Supv. Patrick LaGuerre, National Night Out 2018. Photo courtesy of MCPO
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By Sofia Wawrzyniak

Say “service provider,” and people might think of their internet host or cable company.

But police and firefighters are service providers, too, according to Peter Gilpatric of the Morris County Sheriff’s Department.

“Too often we have silos, so you think cops or firemen live in this thing and it’s their own world, but it’s us” doing a service, Gilpatric said Tuesday in Morris Township at Mennen Arena, site of the 34th annual National Night Out.    

National Night Out is held by communities around the United States to display services offered by local government and improve public relations.

Police motorcycle at 2018 National Night Out. Photo by Sofia Wawrzyniak
Police motorcycle at 2018 National Night Out. Photo by Sofia Wawrzyniak

The idea came from Matt Peskin. His neighborhood watch group collaborated with the Merlon Police Department of the suburbs in Philadelphia, Pa.

His newsletter encouraged discussion between police and his neighborhood. In 1981,  he shifted focus to surrounding areas, forming the National Association of Town Watch. National Night Out, the association’s most extensive awareness campaign, followed in 1984. 

This year’s event at Mennen Arena drew many first responders and neighbors alike. While parents visited information tables, children with first responder hats on their heads and candy in their hands got free child ID cards and explored police cars, fire trucks, and repair vehicles from Jersey Central Power & Light. 

Morris County organizations showcased opportunities for all ages to get involved in their community.

 “Throughout the year, we work with municipalities across our service area to enhance safety by keeping the streetlights on and we encourage homeowners to ensure their property is well lit,”  Jim Fakult, president of JCP&L, said in a statement. 

JCP&L’s Karl Van Den Berg, Ron Moore and Keith Paine with Harrison Patel of Morristown in a line truck at the Morristown National Night Out event. Photo: JCP&L
JCP&L’s Karl Van Den Berg, Ron Moore and Keith Paine with Harrison Patel of Morristown in a line truck at the Morristown National Night Out event. Photo: JCP&L

Echoing the original principles of National Night Out, Gilpatric conveyed local authorities’ belief that the most effective way to deter conflict and boost public safety is through local reporting.

He cited the Sheriff’s CrimeStoppers program, which enables people to report suspicious- or criminal activities anonymously, often for rewards.

“Community outreach is the best thing can do,” Gilpatric said.

“It knocks down the silos, knocks down the authority. When people think of police, they think ‘you’re going to bust me,’ but it’s not about that. They are really there to help, to protect and serve. They get paid, but they run in first.”

Morristown Green correspondent Sofia Wawrzyniak also is a musician and is a rising junior at Morristown High School.

Emergency vehicles on display at 2018 National Night Out. Photo by Sofia Wawrzyniak
Emergency vehicles on display at 2018 National Night Out. Photo by Sofia Wawrzyniak
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