National Night Out - Making Agencies More Approachable for the Community

Aug 5, 2015

For the fourth year in a row, Springfield citizens came together for National Night Out, where families become more familiar with city and community resources as part of the annual community-building event. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann visited Meador Park on Tuesday to meet with participants.

Strolling through the park just west of Battlefield Mall, various agencies have set up shop to serve families and individuals.

Fire trucks, police vehicles, and ambulances align the walkway and are available for children and adults alike to sit in and explore. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is doing free blood pressure screenings, Highland Dairy is passing out ice cream, and many other agencies and neighborhood associations are in attendance offering activities and sharing information.

Sergeant Jennifer Charleston is with the Springfield Police Department’s community resources unit, which coordinates with Community Partnership of the Ozarks to put this annual event together. Charleston says the fun activities are designed to not only promote safety, but also bridge the gap between agencies and the community.   

“That’s why we’re here.  We want to let people know ‘hey come up to us—let us know your concerns,’ and that we’re there for them. So I think given the different activities we present it makes us approachable in that aspect,” explains Charleston.

The SPD has a dunk tank providing event goers a chance to dunk an officer, along with a crash-test demonstration to experience. 

Several Springfield neighborhood are also represented. Marti Mowrey, president of the Tom Watkins Neighborhood Association, says this is its second year participating in National Night Out, and she feels it is a great experience.  Mowrey says increasing safety in neighborhoods like Tom Watkins starts with getting neighbors to interact with each other and the larger community.

“A lot of them [people in the neighborhood] have been kind of scared to talk to police—retaliation etc.  But we’re trying to break that cycle and let them know you can talk to your PAR (Police Area Representative) officer, you can talk to the chief of police. They’re always there to help us, but it’s just trying to get our neighbors out of that shell. And so with this they see the positive side not just what you see in the press,” explains Mowery.

Families with children of all ages were in attendance.  While many declined to be recorded for the interview, everyone I spoke with shared that they felt it was a fun way to learn more about what the community had to offer.  William McCrimmons says this is the third year he and his family have come out because it is free, safe and a great way to learn more about area agencies.

“It’s kind of a relaxed atmosphere.  The police department is here they’re in the dunk tank, you’ve got the fire department, you’ve got BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse), so I think it does bridge the gap between the community and these organizations,” says McCrimmons.

Condensed versions of this event are to be scheduled in connection with many of the local neighborhood associations.