Strengthening the bonds: Annual National Night Out event connects residents of Bemidji with the badge (w/ video)
BEMIDJI--The ninth annual National Night Out in Bemidji attracted hundreds Tuesday as part of an effort to encourage a better relationship between the public and first responders.
BEMIDJI-The ninth annual National Night Out in Bemidji attracted hundreds Tuesday as part of an effort to encourage a better relationship between the public and first responders.
"The focus is bringing the community and the police department together to promote crime prevention and neighborhood camaraderie," Shelby Weckwerth, assistant director of healthy lifestyles at the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, said.
Each year the event has been held, the Boys & Girls Club has helped to organize by working with the Bemidji Police Department, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office and other first responders.
"The kids get to learn about what they do and explore the vehicles they use," Weckwerth said. "We've had smoke houses, for example, from the fire department before to teach the kids about fire safety."
Officer Thomas Charboneau, who was hired for community policing in 1990, said the event helps strengthen bonds with both children and adults.
"It shows that we're here to help. It takes away a mystique with the police, and shows what we're all about," Charboneau said. "This is our chance to reach out to the community and say 'we're here for you.'
"One thing I've heard the most at this particular event is 'I didn't' realize that,'" Charboneau continued. "So it's also an opportunity to educate people. When they need help, they will have a better understanding on how to reach out."
Other organizations present at Tuesday's event included the Beltrami Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity and Bemidji Parks and Recreation. Target of Bemidji was also present, donating and grilling food.
On top of the learning experience, attendees were also able to play carnival games and take shots at a dunk tank.
Bemidji's event was just one many National Night Out programs that took place throughout the country. The national organization often hosts its premiere event on the first Tuesday of August with 16,124 communities in all 50 states as well as U.S. territories, Canadian cities and multiple military bases participating.