Crowds gathered Tuesday night in communities across Long Island for National Night Out, including Ridge, where Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., discussed the importance of community members getting to know law enforcement officers in the area.  Credit: Steve Pfost

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Ted Phillips and Darwin Yanes. It was written by Chayes.

Crowds came out Tuesday night for National Night Out events on Long Island and across the country, partaking in carnivallike entertainment with police and law enforcement officers.

In Hempstead, Denton Green Park was filled for the event as families enjoyed a sun-drenched summer evening.

At Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge, there were games, barbecue and a tug-o-war between a group of children and members of the Suffolk County Sheriff Department.

Other events were held Tuesday evening across the Island, New York City and the country.

National Night Out dates back to 1984, a time when crime rates nationwide were far higher than in 2022. The program got started with a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance grant.

It’s typically held the first Tuesday in August, and is not just a local affair.

Senior Justice Department officials and other federal prosecutors took part across the country Tuesday evening, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, who attended events in Baltimore.

Hempstead Village Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said: “Usually when the police respond, it’s because of an emergency and things like that. So now kids get to see the police in a different light, see that they’re moms and dads just like everyone else and just have a good time.”

Hobbs seemed to be having a good time himself.

After a long line of contenders had tried to throw baseballs — three tries per person — at a target to dunk a police detective into water, Hobbs took his shot, and on the second throw the detective plunged into water. The detective got up, laughed and sat up for the next contestant.

At one end of the park children took pony rides and pet a donkey and goats that were chewing the grass.

“I like how the pony, it’s calm,” said 9-year-old Akyia Brinkley, after her ride.

Akyia came to the event with her grandmother, Charlise Streeter, 60, of Hempstead Village.

“We don’t have that much activity around here, so it’s good to bring the kids out now for activities,” Streeter said. “I hope they keep doing stuff like this.”

Streeter said it was good to meet the police in this environment because “everybody thinks they’re the bad guys.”

Cotton candy and soft serve ice cream were hits with the children but for adults, it was a nice evening with their neighbors.

“It’s great,” said Rita Allen, 52, a medical assistant from Hempstead village. “We’re all together as a family in the community.”

Village Police Chief Paul Johnson said the night was meant “to build partnerships.”

“It’s also a time where we can meet with the youth of the community,” Johnson said. “The youth can learn about us, what we do and see the human side of us, not just the enforcement.”

Meanwhile, Out East, Chris Madison, 55, of Ridge, whose wife works in law enforcement, said he believes supporting law enforcement and events like this can strengthen communities.

More officers walking around neighborhoods and shaking hands with residents could help build relationships, Madison said.

“You see [the] other side of law enforcement,” he said. “They’re not superman, machines, they’re human just like the rest of us.”

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