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Lower Swatara plans own National Night Out, with focus on outreach

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/19/19

The Lower Swatara Police Department will hold its own National Night Out event this year.

Last year, the township police teamed up with Middletown Police Department to organize the event at Hoffer …

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Lower Swatara plans own National Night Out, with focus on outreach

Lower Swatara Officer Scott Young talks with Ralph Barker at Middletown's National Night Out at Hoffer Park on Aug. 7, 2018.
Lower Swatara Officer Scott Young talks with Ralph Barker at Middletown's National Night Out at Hoffer Park on Aug. 7, 2018.
staff photo by laura hayes
Posted

The Lower Swatara Police Department will hold its own National Night Out event this year.

Last year, the township police teamed up with Middletown Police Department to organize the event at Hoffer Park, but during the commissioners’ meeting on May 15, Police Chief Jeff Vargo announced that the township was going to hold its own event, from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6.

Compared to the carnival-type event typically held in Hoffer Park, Vargo told the Press & Journal that the township decided to go back to the basics.

As part of this year’s event, the police are encouraging township residents to hold block parties on that night, cookouts, walks through the neighborhoods with flashlights, or sit in front of their homes and get to know their neighbors.

Officers will ride bikes, and walk and drive through the neighborhoods.

“I’ve done the carnival-type events, but I think the focus in Lower Swatara is, again, I’d like to establish these neighborhood crime watch programs and just get citizens to know one another. The true intent with National Night Out is to turn your lights on, and just get to know your neighbors, not necessarily attend a carnival,” Vargo said.

The same people may attend a carnival-style event year to year. Pushing people outside of their houses to get to know their neighbors will go a long way, he said.

Commissioner Mike Davies commended the plan for National Night Out this year.

“I see real value in doing the community-centered National Night Out. There are people that live six houses away from me that I don’t know,” Davies said. “I frankly see more value in that than free hot dogs.”

In an interview with the Press & Journal, Vargo said township police won’t be at Middletown’s National Night Out.

He said they decided to change course and go in a different direction after a discussion between township and borough police departments. They wanted to try something different and focus on township residents, and this type of event is more intimate, he said.

“Sometimes change is good,” Vargo said.

Vargo wants to help establish neighborhood watch programs as part of this year’s National Night Out, which he said were “lacking” in the township.

“We as a police department can’t do this alone. We need them to be our eyes and ears,” he said.

Vargo said the purpose of National Night Out is to “raise awareness of drug and crime prevention efforts, to generate support for local anti-crime efforts, to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and to send a message to criminals or potential criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and watching out for each other.”

If residents need guidance assistance on how to organize a National Night Out event in their neighborhood, they are encouraged to call Vargo on the department’s non-emergency line 717-558-6900.