UNION, NJ — Hundreds of Union residents came out last week to celebrate Union’s National Night Out. The event, held at Police Headquarters on Caldwell Avenue, included a community picnic, tours of police headquarters, games, music, family activities, demonstrations and more. Officers manned the grills, cooking hot dogs as kids enjoyed a bounce house, along with the chance to dunk officers into a dunk tank.
Residents and police officers came together in a show of unity that many felt was a great way to demonstrate positive interactions between communities and law enforcement.
Union Police Sergeant Tim Ford told LocalSource that the event was a great opportunity for officers to reach out personally to members of the community. “Everything went great,” said Ford. “It was a great opportunity for everyone in the community to speak to us. We’ve always had a great turnout, and this year it was full from start to finish. Officers got a chance to talk to people about just regular, everyday stuff. Everyone was very supportive of us.”
Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo told LocalSource that he is proud of the relationship between Union’s police force and the community. “I’m proud to say that our police department has a great relationship with the public,” Figueiredo.
“They host events like National Night Out, toy collection drives during the holidays for the less fortunate, and they participate in our annual Trunk-or-Treat during Halloween, among other things. That being said, no one person or organization is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Considering the fact that we live in a world that is becoming less and less personal by the day, it’s our job to make sure that things are being done to break down these walls, especially with our youth who hold the key to the future success of our township.”
Union Deputy Mayor Suzette Cavadas told LocalSource that events like National Night Out help promote positive relations for everyone. “First and foremost, I believe that this year’s National Night Out was an overwhelming success,” said Cavadas. “As a parent, I was excited to see so many families come out to share in the event. The whole purpose of National Night Out is to make our neighborhoods safer through police-community partnerships. The series of tragedies that have happened across the country have left our nation grasping for a solution and I believe that events like these are where it starts. When families come together with our law enforcement and develop a personal relationship, we start to see fear and mistrust turn into trust and understanding. I think we saw a lot of that on Tuesday.”
Jason Krychiw, a Union resident and independent candidate running for a seat on the town council, participated in the event. “I enjoyed it,” said Krychiw. “The UPD, fire department, and EMS always do a great job with the event. There seemed to be a big crowd consistently from beginning to end and there were a lot of families, so it had a good community feel to it. I was running the YMCA table where we had a “wheel of fitness” where you spin the wheel, do the fitness activity, and win a prize. That was a big hit with the kids. I was doing some of the activities with them as they would come up, to show them how, so I definitely got my workout for the night.”
Union resident Brad Leak mirrored these sentiments. “Leadership did an amazing job with the planning,” said Leak. “The diversity which has become Union was on full display.”
Figueiredo said that events like this one lead Union’s community in the right direction. “As for whether or not National Night Out has done anything to improve relations with the public, I think that remains to be seen,” he said. “But I am certain that the Police Department’s commitment to these events despite what is happening in other parts of the country is definitely a step in the right direction.”
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, better places to live. It culminates annually on the first Tuesday in August, bringing together neighbors from across thousands of communities from all 50 states, United States territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.