Editor's note: The photo caption, which contained incorrect identifications, was updated at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“A lot of people tend to think the [neighborhood watch] is just focused on crime, but it’s about education and prevention methods to improve the community’s well-being as a whole,” said Frederic Lee, president of Schenectady Neighborhood Watch.
National Night Out is in its 34th year, though it started on a local level more recently. It takes place on the first Tuesday in August, and is meant to promote partnerships between law enforcement and the community and encourage safer neighborhoods. Similar events took place in other Capital Region municipalities on Tuesday night, including Clifton Park and Amsterdam.
The Schenectady Neighborhood Watch has steadily grown in numbers in recent years, Lee said, and has worked to promote tolerance among neighbors.
Tuesday was the first time the organization held its event in Woodlawn Park after doing it in Mont Pleasant the past couple years. In the past, the event has primarily focused on a community walk through the neighborhood. This year, Lee said, organizers tried something different.
Various community organizations and entities had tables and tents set up where residents could learn more about each one. The Schenectady Police Department, the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office, MVP Health Care and others offered information on their services to residents.
Often the only time someone gets to meet a police officer is during a traffic stop, Lee said. National Night Out is a chance for community members to interact with law enforcement on a more casual and personal level.
The Schenectady Police Department brought its mobile command center to show residents, offered free bike helmets for kids and put on a canine demonstration.
“It’s a chance to come out and let people see the resources we have that are available and some of the things we can do,” Sgt. Matt Dearing said. “And we get to see everybody in a different capacity.”
The Schenectady event ran from 4 until 8 p.m. About halfway through, close to 100 people had filtered in and out of Woodlawn Park, including many families. Some residents said they enjoyed getting out and interacting with their neighbors and city leaders.
Police Chief Eric Clifford mingled with residents during the event, and a few City Council members attended as well.
In addition to informational booths, there was a place for kids to pose behind hand-painted cut-outs of firefighters. Domino's provided free pizza, which operations director Ramon De Leon said he was delighted to do for such a community-focused event.
“There’s no business that exists without a community,” De Leon said. “An event like this that helps build community makes us proud to be a part of it as a business."