On Tuesday night in Tuckahoe's Depot Square, kids, teens and residents participated in the National Night Out Against Crime, an annual event that's been held across the country for 27 years.
With the exception of last year, due to manpower issues, Sergeant Peggy Belles from the Tuckahoe Police Department has organized the event in the Village since 2005.
"Our goal is promote partnerships with all residents of our community. When you become accessible to the public and really get to know the community that you serve, it has a direct and very positive impact on the development of lasting and cooperative relationships," Sergeant Belles said. "This event enables all groups, agencies, and residents, to come together and rally against crime and drugs."
By providing this educational forum in which neighbors are meeting neighbors, Sergeant Belles said, "we create an environment that promotes collaboration to proactively fight against crime and drugs in our neighborhoods."
At the Tuckahoe Police table, the department showed off some heavy-duty wares to the public. From automatic weapons to battering rams and riot gear, event-goers could get up close and personal with the protective measures police require for dangerous situations.
Intoxication simulation goggles were another big hit, with kids lining up to try them. The goggles, used as an educational tool against drunk driving, let the wearer see through the eyes of a person who's had one too many.
"We ask them to walk in a straight line. They have a hard time doing that, so we say, 'picture driving a car like that,'" Lieutenant Ray Stabile said. "Tonight's event is to promote awareness for crime prevention. The community comes together for kids to be safe, and the booths help people find out how to go about doing that."
Arko, a well-trained four-year-old Belgian Malinois, sat pretty with his Eastchester K9 Unit handler, Joe Rodriguez. "He does patrol work, mainly searches for people and narcotics," Rodriguez said while petting the dog. "We've had him for about a year." Favored by police and military for being an alert and high-energy breed, Arko shares his time with the Tuckahoe Police when needed.
Also in attendance was the Westchester County Department of Corrections with a well-organized display of heroin, cocaine, LSD, seized weapons made from CDs and toothbrushes, and interpreted gang codes. A riot suit complete with body and face shields was a popular attraction and kids gathered in bunches to try some of the gear on.
"We go to schools and talk about computer safety and gangs," Rob Lake of the Westchester Department of Corrections said.
As the night continued, children and young teens gracefully step-danced in front of the Generoso Pope Foundation from the Hendry School of Irish Dance, followed by a Suburbia Roller Derby demonstration. In between performances, Tuckahoe's Double image DJ's spun tracks for the kids to move and shake to. There were also two bounce houses provided by Leaps n' Bounces, a bounce house rental company in New Rochelle, were set up for kids, along with a basketball toss.
Tuckahoe's Kimberly Naclerio was driving by with her two children, six-year-old Jacob and two-year-old Taylor, when she saw the people and stands. "I wanted to see what was going on. It's fun so far," she said.
Tara McGowan of Bronxville also saw the goings-on when she drove by with her daughter, Amanda. "This is our first time. It's nice. I'm having a great time, and I think she is too."
The event is sponsored primarily by and is presented by the Tuckahoe and Eastchester Police Departments.
"We raise money within the three areas and it solely goes to a number of organizations within our community. Like the EVAC ambulance we bought three months ago," Steve Doherty, treasurer of the Community Fund of Bronxville, Eastchester, and Tuckahoe, said. "We're proud to sponsor this night, as well as Bicycle Safety Day."