National Night Out: Local police seek to cut crime by building community relationships

Samantha Kummerer Image
BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
National Night Out: Police seek to cut crime by building relationships
The annual National Night Out event gives the community the opportunity to meet their local law enforcement officers.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The annual National Night Out event gives the community the opportunity to meet their local law enforcement officers.

Officers from the Raleigh Police Department, Wake County Sheriff's Office, and Fuquay-Varina Police Department will be at various community events throughout the county on Tuesday.

"Most of the time, people only call us when they need something. We see them on their worst days. And so this is a time where it's very casual. They just come out, talk to us, and get to know the people who are on the other end of the phone when they call," said Wake County Sheriff Lt. Phillip Sutton.

A full list of events and times can be found here.

It's events such as this that Brenda Schneider saw a need for and has seen firsthand the positive effect.

"Nobody should be afraid to go outside or to ask for help; not even with officers, but just with the community. Remember, back in the day, it took a village. There's no village anymore and officers were a big part of that village," she said.

Schneider is a preschool teacher in Wake County and noticed some of her young students were starting to have negative emotions about the police.

"I've had little kids that we've gone into neighborhoods say not nice things to the officers that come to hang out with them," she said.

So a few years ago, Schneider started a nonprofit called Police at Play that aims to bring police and young children together.

"I think building the relationships with the kids first is huge," she said. "We've even changed parents' minds."

The mission snowballed from bringing officers to recess to setting up pick-up sports games to handing out popsicles and lunches.

She's seen the effect these events have made as she cited a teen who got in trouble and would only trust and talk to the officer he played pick-up football with.

"He absolutely trusted him. It was fantastic," she remembered.

Schneider said she believes without more community events such as this, crime will increase.

"It is needed now, even more so than when I started it," she expressed. "Things have just progressively gotten worse."

Data from the past year does show an increase in assaults, car thefts, and burglaries in Raleigh, according to the ABC11 Neighborhood Safety Tracker.

Statewide, this violence is affecting youth more and more with gun violence now the leading cause of death for children.

Sutton is on the crime-prevention team at the Wake County Sheriff's Office. He seeks to tackle this uptick in crime by building trusted relationships with the community.

"We want people to know that we're human beings, and we're there for the job, but we're there to also help them," Sutton said.

In addition to National Night Out, his team hosts classes and events throughout the year to continue to build on those relationships.

Sutton said National Night Out is a way for people to get to know first responders along with their neighbors.

"This is a perfect chance for you to meet them and to know that, hey, you care about your community, you care about the safety, and you want to work with us, not against us," he said.

Schneider will be going to multiple events Tuesday to spread the work she does with her preschoolers to the community.

"Nobody should be afraid to approach an officer; an officer should not be afraid to do their job," she said. "I don't know what the fix is. I just know that I am trying to play a tiny part in that."

Schneider said she is looking for people to help her expand her efforts. Those interested can reach out to her here.

RPD is also encouraging people to leave their porch lights on Tuesday evening from 7-10 p.m. to symbolize "alertness and awareness."