National Night Out connects residents, police


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In many towns around the country, the National Night Out celebration is a low-key barbecue where police can talk to residents about their concerns. But Pleasant Hills goes all out.

Its celebration Tuesday night included a parade of more than 100 vehicles, including police cars and firetrucks from 25 surrounding towns, a Marine unit and the Kennywood trolley.

The event worked to strengthen relations between police and the community. A police officer visited each of more than 20 block parties to meet residents and talk about concerns.

"Probably most of them have never spoken to an officer except when they were getting a ticket," Pleasant Hills Mayor Warren Bourgeois said. "It's really about community outreach; to me, that's the main part of it."

Pleasant Hills police Chief Edward Cunningham said residents have raised issues from traffic concerns to loitering to suspicious people.

American flags and handmade signs lined the parade route, which began at Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church and ended with a dinner at American Legion Post 712.

"One of the things that really makes it emotional for us is there are so many block parties that have signs saying 'Thank you, police' and 'We love our police,' " Chief Cunningham said.

At the dinner at the American Legion, the borough gave small trophies to the groups that marched in the parade. When the Marines went to get theirs, the audience gave them a standing ovation.

The national date for Night Out celebrations is Aug. 7, but the Pleasant Hills event, in its 19th year, has always been a week early.

Other towns in the South Hills, except McKeesport and Castle Shannon, which have registered with the national organization as developing plans, do not have any National Night Out events.

Matt Peskin, national project coordinator for National Night Out, said more towns across the country are adopting the event. When it began in 1984, there were 400 towns involved, and now there are 16,000.

But a lack of funds could still be an obstacle for towns.

"The only reason they would decide not to do that we've seen in the past few years is budget concerns," Mr. Peskin said. "They could be strapped for funds."

neigh_south

Peter Sullivan: psullivan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939. First Published August 2, 2012 9:30 AM


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