Brianna Powell, 2, wanted to hit the siren.
She climbed up on Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Frazier’s motorcycle and hit the buttons, smiling as the horn honked and the lights twirled in pace with the siren.
She was one of just many children interested in learning more about law enforcement during National Night Out, hosted by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office at Lenn Park Tuesday night.
Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins said the plan was to host a central location for county residents to congregate and get a chance to learn more about local law enforcement.
“I think there’s no better time to focus on family, community and law enforcement relations,” Sheriff Jenkins said. “Whether it’s on the neighborhood watch level or any other organization, just to get to know each other and to interact with local law enforcement - that’s where it all starts.”
Culpeper County Civil Defense was on hand, helping people map their neighborhood along with K-9 demonstrations by deputies and the Child ID van. A large crowd turned out for the barbecue that was hosted and kids interacted with deputies, giving hugs to school resource officers they recognized from school.
“We’ve moved it around each year,” Sheriff Jenkins said. “Last year we had discussions about where we could have it to draw the majority of the rural community and the suggestion was made for Lenn Park. It makes it ideal for this type of event. By the looks of it, this is the largest crowd we’ve ever had. Out in the more rural areas of the county, this is a good example of bringing all members of the county out.”
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community.
Culpeper Town Police Department Chief Chris Jenkins was making his rounds to the many neighborhood watch special events on National Night Out. He stressed how important it was to make connections within the community and for the residents to see his department interacting in a casual manner.
“I think it’s huge, to getting the public to trust the police,” Chief Jenkins said. “Almost every case we solve comes about because of the relationships with the community. On the very best day, there’s not enough law enforcement.”
Following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Jenkins said it was important to help the community feel safe.
“With what’s been in the news the past weekend, that could easily be Culpeper,” Chief Jenkins said. “I think it’s all about preparation, and again it’s a lot about through partnerships and having the trust in the community when they see people who should be red flagged - it’s about the trust between the community and law enforcement.”
The Town of Culpeper has 30 watch groups total - 24 neighborhood groups and six business watch groups. Not every watch group hosted a party - some participated in “Lights On Means Lights Out For Crime.” Even in those neighborhoods, Culpeper police officers made their presence felt - biking through or walking through on foot.