Brooklynites come together for National Night Out Against Crime

Cops at the 60th Precinct in Coney Island dish out scoops.
Photo by Arthur da Gaeta

Do-gooding Brooklynites came together for a night of community input on Aug. 3, marking the most recent “National Night Out Against Crime,” with over a dozen community-building events held in Brooklyn NYPD precincts. 

The National Night Out, a countrywide event established in the 1980’s meant to strengthen police-community relations and educate locals about crime and its prevention, was held this year for the first time during the pandemic, and against the backdrop of both 2020’s widespread protests against police brutality, and a surge in gun violence throughout Brooklyn and New York City. 

At gatherings throughout the borough, Brooklynites mingled with their local cops and neighbors while staying COVID-safe at the outdoor events. 

In Crown Heights, the 77th Precinct hosted a hangout with officers at Brower Park, featuring a cookout and a performance from the Brooklyn United drum line. The event was the first National Night Out hosted by the precinct since the death of former 77th Precinct Community Council President James Caldwell, who was well known for his work in the community. 

Members of the Brooklyn United drum line perform in Brower Park.Photo by Caroline Ourso

Brian Saunders, who took over this year as chairperson of the event, said he wanted to continue the event in Caldwell’s memory. 

“He always wanted to build a relationship between the police and the community,” Saunders said. “With everything that’s going on — gun violence, covid — it’s time for a change, it’s time for new ideas.” 

About a mile away at Grand Army Plaza, the 78th Precinct hosted the community for rock climbing, performances by the Tropical Fete steel drum band, and balloon animals for youngsters. 

For Park Sloper Andy Baird, the annual gathering has become a yearly tradition for his family. 

“The kids love it,” he said. “We have pictures of [my daughter] when she was two bouncing up and down to the music.” 

Over in Bay Ridge, leaders of the 68th Precinct held their event right outside of their 65th Street building — drawing in community members of all ages, many who said they want a future in law enforcement. 

More than a dozen tables lined the block between Third and Fourth avenues— which was mostly closed to traffic — offering activities with a “Back the Blue” theme and information to get involved in the various facets of law enforcement or serving on the frontlines. 

McGruff the Crime Dog, right, gives a thumbs up with a 68th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer.Photo by Jessica Parks

A large showing of young people were with Bravo Volunteer Ambulance Service, as well as the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers — two programs, one young resident of the neighborhood said, are helpful in getting involved with the community while also figuring out career options

“It’s something that gets you thinking about the future,” said 21-year-old Alyssa Gomez, who joined the organization with the aspiration of being a police officer two years ago, and is now studying social work with the hopes of working with the NYPD in the future. 

Another member of the Law Enforcement Explorers encouraged his fellow young adults to inquire about programs within their local precincts as it opens up a trove of opportunities. 

“I encourage a lot of people out there to actually go to their local precincts and ask about their Explorers program,” said 18-year-old Abdelazim Elhanafy, “and getting involved within their local community and local policing.” 

Alyssa Gomez of the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers, center, helped kids make arts and crafts at the 68th Precinct’s National Night Out.Photo by Jessica Parks

There were also local community groups who came out to host activities to show their support for the police, such as Rosie’s Confidence Corner who put together an arts and crafts table for the kids with the focus of spreading kindness to one another. 

“We are all about love, we’re all about kindness,” said Rosemarie Rizzo, who founded her organization in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. “And trying to get children to go back to the realities of the please and thank you.”

The 60th Precinct in Coney Island hosted their gathering outside their West 8th Street stationhouse, where they awarded local businessman Talman Elkiaeb was awarded a Civilian Commendation Award for his help servicing police vehicles at his auto body shop. 

Talman Elkiaeib receives his award from 60th precinct officers.Photo by Arthur da Gaeta

The 63rd precinct hosted its festivities at Marine Park, boasting two bouncy castles, free food and knick-knacks from local restaurants and vendors, and a 63-emblazoned squad car from the 1970s for picture-taking. Entertainment for the evening included performances by various youth dance troupes, at various ages.

“It’s wonderful to have everyone come out for some fun after the year we’ve had,” said Officer Carla McGirt, an officer with the 63rd who attended the event.

Lt. Xiang Li (left) and Officer Carla McGirt of the 63rd PrecinctPhoto by Ben Brachfeld

The community did not get to have its National Night Out jamboree last year due to the coronavirus. The community rallied to put on the event this year, in spite of rising case rates in the city due to the Delta variant. Since the city has been living for much longer with COVID now than it did at this point last year, people were both more eager to celebrate and more knowledgeable of the precautions to take.

“It’s definitely a concern,” said Paul Link, the Corporate Secretary of the Marine Park Civic Association, regarding Delta. “But we’re gonna be positive, and we’re gonna say things are gonna keep getting better, as they are. We’ve just gotta be adults, be careful.”

With reporting by Caroline Ourso and Arthur de Gaeta